We were on a bird walk one morning near Chichén Itzá and saw this huge nest attached to a branch high up in a tree. Similar to a hornet’s nest, it’s called a Mayan Paper Wasp nest. According to the locals, the little critters are not overly aggressive and won’t bother you if you don’t bother them…and they’re good eating!
Wasp hunters in the Yucatan? I don’t think so. People probably come across the nests just as we did while walking in the woods. Many paths crisscross the scrub jungle like an enormous maze with no signs — short cuts to town, to work, and to the homes of friends. Families here often walk or use bicycles for transportation.
In any case, a competent Yucatecan cook can turn a paper wasp nest into a delicacy — or so I’ve heard. It’s a matter of first happening across a nest in the jungle and finding a way to “collect” it without getting stung. The best time, they say, is to wait for most of the wasps to leave. This requires patience followed by a fast getaway. Once home, the nest is taken apart layer by layer and the paper honeycomb is toasted, the roasted wasp larvae popped out, and everything ground by hand in a molcajete with a little water, chili paste, and sour orange juice. The final dish, served on a hot tortilla, is fittingly called Eék!