Hunting for ant eggs in Vietnam

By Ngoc Thanh    March 30, 2019 | 08:40 pm PT
Every year in March farmers in the central province of Thanh Hoa set out to harvest ant eggs, a popular food.
Hunting for ant eggs in Vietnam

People living in mountainous areas in the west of the province start to harvest the eggs from tree branches. The eggs are usually large at that time. 

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Truong Van Tinh of Ngoc Lac District has been doing this for more than a decade. He carries a bamboo ladder and a sharp knife and looks for ant nests on trees. 

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"To get a large quantity of eggs, we need to choose [to harvest on] a sunny day, since it will be easier to climb up without making much noise," he said.

Ants usually build their nest on the highest branch of a tree, which makes it hard to reach them by ladder. Thus the harvesters need to shimmy up the trees without ladders.

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The harvesters need to be careful when bringing the nests down to avoid being bitten. The ants in the area are usually yellow or black, and their eggs are very large and delicious. 

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There are thousands of cells with eggs in a nest. People use knives to cut up the nests on large rattan trays, allowing ants to escape. 

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After dismantling the nest, people also use tree branches to chase the remaining ants away from the trays. The ants quickly leave the nests and climb up trees.

"At that time the ants with will crawl everywhere and sometimes bite us, especially the three-part ants," Dinh Thi Dieu, a regular harvester, said.

"When you are bitten, you need to stay calm and find a way to get rid of the ant, because jumping up and down will attract more ants."

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The trays with ant eggs are sieved to get rid of dried leaves and other stuff. It usually takes around three hours to get the eggs from one nest. 

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They eggs are then made into various dishes such as fried ant eggs with lemon grass, porridge with eggs, stir-fried eggs. They are also used as fillings in cakes and eaten with steamed sticky rice. A kilogram of eggs fetch VND200,000 ($8.5).  

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