Mayurbhanj and its famous Red Ants

Mayurbhanj is famous for its dense forests and tribes. Large part of this district is influenced by traditional food and culture. The native tribes play a vital role in cultural aspect of the society. Where the access to technology is seldom, natives still manage to find solution to their problem through their indigenous resources and methods.

A red ant also called as “fire ant”

Out of all the natural goods, recently, red ants chutney of Mayurbhanj got an international attention when an Engineer claimed that it is a cure for covid’19. Read more about his claim below:
An article published in HH Asia

Though I am neither accepting nor debunking their claim, but I came across a nice research on “Traditional Value of Red Weaver Ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) as Food and Medicine in Mayurbhanj District of Odisha, India” published in IJRASET (International Journal for Research in Applied Science & Engineering Technology) in their May 2020 Volume 8 Issue V. This research is done by North Orissa University. I am going to share about their findings here.

How & where red ants are found ?

The most preferable plant of the red weaver ant is mango tree besides that they also build their nest in other plants like Sal tree, Kusuma tree, Kendu tree, Sapeta tree and sometimes found on the rock surface in the hilly areas covered with dense forest. The rich flora of Mayurbhanj provides a natural habitat for these ants. The nests of these ants look like small pouches made of leaves.

Pouch of leaves – nest of red ants

Traditional Usages

The native tribes living in the vicinity of the forests have made these ants part of their culture. They are dependent on these ants or their products directly or indirectly from centuries. There are different areas in which Red ants influence them like –

In Diet :

Often called as “Kaii” or “Kurkuti” in the local language, people consume these ants and their eggs in form of chutney. They consider these as very nutritious. Except the adult form of ant (Ant with wings), all other forms are good for this recipe.
Ingredients of red ant chutney : Crushed and mixed with different local herbs like fresh coriander leaves, green chili, ginger, garlic and a bit of salt and sugar – thick orange colored chutney is prepared.
The report says – “The tribal communities of Rairangpur (DU: 83.54%), Baripada (DU: 80.19%), Betanati (DU: 74.12%), Udala (DU: 81.2%), Karanjia (DU: 81.68%) and Similipal periphery (DU: 63.78%) are most preferably using this in their day-to-day life”.

red ants chutney
Red ant chutney

This recipe made it to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s menu, thereby getting an international recognition.

Gordon Ramsay in India – Trying red ant chutney

In Medicines :

The red ants are very useful in different types of diseases.

For example – In common cold, it is used as medicine with a small dose. The whole body of this ant, with the eggs was crushed and makes aqueous form, mixed with required amount of special green chili (Dhanua Lanka) and spoon fed to patient.

The report says – “In Betanati and Rairangpur area the smell of crushed freshly collected red weaver ant is inhaled for several times in a day and remarkable result is obtained within 2-3 days.

The crude extract of this ant also used as an acidizing agent for enteric gas problem.

In vomiting, the brood content is crushed to obtained aqueous extract and then the juice will be given to the patient. It has seen that the vomiting will stop within 5-7 hours.

In case of Whooping cough, the aqueous extract of whole body of worker ants and the juveniles are used and the patient will cure within 2 to 3 days.

It is also useful for Jaundice; the aqueous extract of whole body along with the eggs is used. The aqueous extract is given to take orally to the patient and the extract is smoothly rubbed on the skin to avoid the yellowish color, effective result is found within 1 to 2 weeks.

Particularly in Rairangpur area the jaundice patient can put about 100 and more ants over the skin surface, the vigorous biting of this red weaver ants can cure him. Besides that, it is also used as appetizer to make a person feeling hungry within 15 to 20 minutes.

In Economy :

red ants chutney in flea market
Red ant chutney in a flea market

Ants and its eggs are either sold directly in the market or in the chutney form. Local flea markets like Station-Bazar market of Baripada is often flooded with these on flea bazaar day (Thursday).

Sold for 10rs a packet (approx. 100 gm), these provide an essential support to the natives and their family.

Generally, the harvesting rate goes high because of high demand during winter seasons.

Research on red ants

Data Collection:

Entomological investigation was conducted in selected village arears of Mayurbhanj district located in northern part of Odisha, India. The documentation of traditional entomological practice of red weaver ant were obtained through structured questionnaire survey, local interviews and field studies in Mayurbhanj district during 2017 to 2018.


Field survey the Mayurbhanj district were done in six selected zones. The selected sites were:

  1. Rairangpur which is full of hilly areas located at north direction
  2. Baripada a centre place of Mayurbhanj district located at the north-east region of the district represents the Baripada town and nearby urban areas
  3. Betnoti is one of the most populated area of tribes with a population of 1, 50, 434
  4. Udala  located on south-east direction with most of the ethnic tribal communities having knowledge on plants and animals
  5. Karanjia  is the hilly area located in west direction
  6. Similipal periphery villages is rich in forest and village areas.

Conclusion of the research

The study concluded that consumption of red weaver ant species is remained unchanged over the years among the tribe but the information regarding why it should be consumed are lacking day by day. The prevalence of entomophagy practice of this red weaver ant species is still clearly remarkable among the tribes of Mayurbhanj district, but many practices and importance of use of this red weaver ant among these tribes need furthermore documentation in a wide area. Besides the red weaver ant, these tribes also utilize a wide range of biological resources in diverse ways. So furthermore, insects to be investigated and popularized, which will make efforts to deal with food crises and generation of new medicines in forth coming days. Further systematic scientific exploration on nutritional and medicinal values of this insect and its impacts on human health must be investigated. It has become mandatory to undertake research on traditional rearing, cultivation, sustainable management, while practicing on edible insects to maintain an integrity in insect biodiversity.

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