Tequila Talk: What’s with the Worm?

In a recent episode of the hit show ‘An Idiot Abroad’, Ricky Gervais’ new project featuring his friend Karl Pilkington (the idiot) traveling the 7 wonders of the world, Karl is forced to eat the worm resting at the bottom of a bottle of ‘Tequila’.

Let’s take this time, however, to make a few points clear. First off, Tequila has zero tradition of including a worm in the bottle. That practice is reserved for Mezcal, Tequila’s cousin. Distilled from the Maguey plant, rather than the Blue Weber Agave, Mezcal sometimes include small insect. But it is not a worm–it’s (usually) the moth larvae hypopta agavis. The ‘worms’ are also known as hilocuiles, chinicuiles, tecoles or gusanos rojos (because of their red colors), and impart a distinctive hue and flavor to the drink.

You are probably thinking, “ok, but why are they in my Tequila…I mean Mezcal?” Take a closer look at the latin name, hypopta agavis (emphasis on agavis), and we find our answer. These organisms begin their lives when their mother plants her eggs in the heart of the maguey plant. They then eat their way out, feeding on the leaves, or pincas, until they form a cocoon, emerge as butterflies and flutter away.

Getting hungry? The mature caterpillars are considered a delicacy in parts of Mexico, and are used in local cuisines. You might also see them deep fried with some salsa picante, wrapped in a tortilla. A 100 gram serving packs almost 700 calories.