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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Ant schnapps for health and pleasure: the use of Formica rufa L. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) to flavour aquavit

Svanberg, Ingvar; Berggren, Asa

Abstract

Background The relationship between humans and insects goes long back and is important. Insects provide a multitude of ecosystem services for humans, e g. by pollinating crops and decomposing matter. Our current knowledge about the cultural ecosystem services that insects provide is limited and not much examined. Method Scattered ethnographical descriptions and folklore records from pre-modern Sweden and other Scandinavian countries give us insights into local knowledge and use of insects among the peasantry in various parts of the country. These data have been analysed and critically reviewed. Source pluralism has been used as a method. Results The mound-building red wood ant, Formica rufa L., is one of the species that were used in Sweden for their healing properties. It was a widespread belief that the formic acid could be used to cure various diseases, especially gout and rheumatism. Both anthills and the ants themselves were used for that purpose. It was also common to flavour distilled liquor (brannvin) with ants; a remedy used for medicinal purposes. However, already in the eighteenth century, this was also used as schnapps. The cultural services provided by this species stretches throughout history and still exists today. Conclusion While the use of ants in medicine has vanished, the custom of making homemade ant flavoured alcoholic beverage survives in Sweden. Nowadays it is a hobby among people who flavour their own aquavit. It is appreciated as a tasty and interesting drink.

Keywords

Alcoholic beverages; Ethnobiology; Ethnoenthomology; Folk remedy; Insects as food; Future drinks; Local knowledge

Published in

Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
2019, volume: 15, number: 1, article number: 68

Authors' information

Svanberg, Ingvar
Uppsala University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

UKÄ Subject classification

Zoology
Other Basic Medicine
Social Anthropology

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13002-019-0347-7

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/103239