We evaluate the cultural, ecological, and horticultural potential for a distinctively Australian sweet food to provide a means of Indigenous cultural revitalization. Among the world's Indigenous peoples, the Australian Aboriginal use of the sweet exudations (lerps and scales) of plant sap-sucking insects (Hemiptera) is exceptional in many respects. This food not only provides a sweet treat and a source of energy but can be stored as dry balls for hard times. Lerps feature in Aboriginal calendars, ceremonies, mythology, and cosmology, all of which have embedded biocultural knowledge about the time and place for optimal collection. These insects are central to Indigenous cultures, yet Western science knows surprisingly little about their taxonomy, biology, and ecology. Recently, there has been interest in using lerps in the restaurant industry as part of the commercialization of traditional Aboriginal foods. We highlight the numerous benefits of a collaborative approach to such enterprises and show that there is a wealth of Indigenous Biocultural Knowledge (IBK) that is invaluable for informing and guiding research, conservation, and commercialization of a guild of insects that remains poorly understood.
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Vol. 40 • No. 3