Invasion of the Flying Ants or a Gourmet Delicatessen?


Invasion of the Flying Ants or a Gourmet Delicatessen?

I opened the doors of the boat yesterday morning, after a night of torrential downpours from the remnants of hurricane Beatriz, only to find our deck covered in giant flying ants. Most dead, some on their wiggly way there. This has happened once a year, every year that we've been here, freaking me out the first time, but now we're used to the phenomenon.

Hundreds of dead and dying chicatanas on our boat and dock.

Gilligan had to inspect

Yesterday was the first annual appearance of the chicatanas. Chicatanas, also known as flying ants, are winged insects that emerge during the rainy season in various parts of Mexico, particularly in the southern regions. They are a delicacy deeply rooted in Mexican cuisine and have been a part of indigenous cultures for centuries.

Chicatanas joined me for an early morning swim!

These giant insects make their appearance in late spring and early summer, usually after a heavy rainstorm. When conditions are just right, their underground nests become flooded, prompting them to take flight in search of new territories. It's quite the spectacle to witness the sky filled with thousands of these flying insects. Unfortunately, many of them don't make it to a safe place as the heavy rain can damage their delicate wings, rendering them unable to fly properly. Dropping from the sky by the hundreds and thousands onto docks, boats, and in pools.

Chicatanas on the dock

Chicatanas are primarily collected by local communities, who see their arrival as a valuable food source. They are carefully gathered, cleaned, and sun-dried to remove moisture and preserve their quality.

We took this pic in an Oaxacan market. In addition to chicatanas, they also sold a variety of crickets and dried shrimp there.

In Mexican cuisine, chicatanas are used in a variety of dishes. One popular way to enjoy them is by roasting or frying them until they become crunchy. These crispy insects are often ground into a fine powder, which adds a distinctive nutty flavor and a hint of earthiness to dishes. The chicatana powder is then incorporated into salsas, moles, and other traditional recipes, enhancing their taste with a unique umami taste. We found them on most menus when we were in Oaxaca. Even tried them on the rim of our Mezcal drinks!

The rim of this mezcal-blackberry cocktail is chicatanas and tajin.

The first ingredient in our salsa being prepared at the table is crickets!

Additionally, chicatanas are sometimes used whole, adding a crunchy texture and an intense flavor to tacos, quesadillas, or even sprinkled over salads.

Gilligan is not a fan of this delicatessen.

So for now, we aren't collecting and eating, we just hose them off our boat until they come again next year.

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