Unique Facts of Sago Caterpillar, a Must-Try Food When Visiting West Papua




Sago Caterpillar has long become one of the unique foods in West Papua that arouse the curiosity of foreign tourists. Take a look at it and find the health benefits behind it.


Like another province in East Indonesia, West Papua is rich in sago production. This carbohydrate source is a favorite food of the Papuan people. But other than that, sago is not the only one to consume. The sago caterpillars, which are found from the trunk of the sago tree, have also been a typical Papuan food since long ago. 

For the people of Papua, sago caterpillars are one of the most popular foods. Especially for people in coastal areas, sago caterpillars are a favorite food. Sago caterpillars have been consumed since prehistoric times. It comes from old sago tree trunks. Sago caterpillars contain protein, and most of it is fat.

Its special white and plump shape makes this caterpillar easily recognizable. It reaches 3-4 centimeters in size and is found in the trunk of a fallen sago tree. This caterpillar will be found in fat and yellowish color. But the fact is, that is not easy to find the sago caterpillar. It is not always there.

This food looks extreme, but you must try it if you have a chance to visit West Papua. Based on its benefits and the process to find it, the price of the sago caterpillar is expensive. Here are some facts about sago caterpillars that you should know:

Main Food Since Prehistoric Times

Sago caterpillar has been found to be a staple food since prehistoric times, according to the Papuan Archeological Center. Abundant sago trees have also used stems, leaves, and fronds to build houses. Meanwhile, sago, sago mushrooms, and sago caterpillars have also been the primary food of the Papuan community, for example, in Timia.

Iron-Rich Beetle Larvae


This caterpillar is the larva of the borer beetle Rhynchophorus ferrugineus. Sago caterpillars are rich in flour. Every 100 grams of caterpillars usually contains 181 calories with 6.1 grams of protein and 13.1 grams of fat. According to research, sago caterpillars contain several essential amino acids, such as aspartic acid, glutamic acid, tyrosine, lysine, and methionine.

Can Be Processed Into Various Types Of Food

Sago caterpillars can be consumed directly, but sometimes the Papuans also process them into various foods, such as satay, chips, fried, or toppings for fried rice. For children, sago caterpillars can usually be mixed with eggs or made with stuffing. They used to eat Sate Sago caterpillars with papeda or sago bread from sago trees in the forest.

Has Many Health Benefits

Sago caterpillars are rich in high protein. Its efficacy can repair cells and tissues of the body to prevent various diseases. The consumption of sago caterpillars can treat malaria, reduce the risk of asthma, rheumatism, depression, and increase libido for men. Sago caterpillars are also suitable to be eaten by diabetics.

Sago worms are also claimed to treat serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The high protein of sago caterpillars can also promote brain function and prevent dementia. This benefit is very important for children who are still developing their brains. 

Amino acids found in sago caterpillars include isoleucine, leucine, histidine, and phenylalanine. They can help the body produce the hormone serotonin in the brain, which will help to improve mood. It also has the effect of improving the quality of sleep. Sago worms are also good to maintain a stable weight because their high protein content can stimulate the body to burn fat faster.

In Sentani culture, sago caterpillars are a must-eat food for pregnant women. In case any family member finds a sago caterpillar in the forest, they have to give it over to their pregnant relative. 

Sago caterpillars have many nutrients that help fetal growth. In addition, good folic acid also helps to avoid birth defects. Sago caterpillars also have good calcium levels to strengthen fetal bones and meet the calcium needs of pregnant women.

Extreme Culinary

Eating caterpillars for some people sounds very extreme and can be ridiculous. So sago caterpillars are included in the list of extreme foods in Indonesia. But some tourists who taste it say it is chewy, sweet, and salty.

Actually, for Papuans, sago caterpillars are eaten directly, without cooking. It provides the original taste and textures. 

Can Trigger Allergies

Despite its taste and benefits, it turns out that some people cannot enjoy this sago caterpillar. It’s because it can trigger allergies such as shortness of breath, red bumps, and even itching. If you experience these symptoms after consuming sago caterpillars, see a health worker immediately for treatment.

Despite its hilarious shape, the sago caterpillar is one of the superfoods that can be found in Papua. It’s one of the must-eat foods for Papua athletes. How about you, interested in tasting sago caterpillars when visiting Papua?