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1 March 2009 Toxic Moths: Source of a Truly Safe Delicacy
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A field survey of local traditional food habits in northern Italy revealed that children in Carnia have traditionally eaten sweet ingluvies (the crop) from day flying moths of the genus Zygaena and its mimic, Syntomis. These moths are brightly colored, and all species of Zygaena contain cyanogenic glucosides, which release toxic hydrogen cyanide upon degradation. The presence of cyanogenic glucosides in larvae and imagos (adults) as well as in ingluvies of Zygaena and Syntomis moths was investigated using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. The sugar content of the ingluvies was determined using gas chromatography and high-performance anion-exchange chromatography. The ingluvies contained very low quantities of cyanogenic glucosides but high quantities of various sugars. We conclude that over time children have become acquainted with the use of Zygaena as a convenient, supplementary source of sugar in early summer when Zygaena is very common and easy to catch by hand. Because the ingluvies have a very low cyanogenic content, children can include this resource as a seasonal delicacy at minimum risk.

Mika Zagrobelny, Angelo Leandro Dreon, Tiziano Gomiero, Gian Luigi Marcazzan, Mikkel Andreas Glaring, Birger Lindberg MøLler, and Maurizio G Paoletti "Toxic Moths: Source of a Truly Safe Delicacy," Journal of Ethnobiology 29(1), 64-76, (1 March 2009).
Published: 1 March 2009

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