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Nested Houses: Domestication dynamics of human-wasp relations in contemporary rural Japan.

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Payne, Charlotte LR 
Evans, Joshua D 


BACKGROUND: Domestication is an important and contested concept. Insects are used as food worldwide, and while some have been described as domesticated and even 'semi-domesticated', the assumptions and implications of this designation are not clear. The purpose of this paper is to explore these aspects of insect domestication, and broader debates in domestication studies, through the case of edible wasps in central rural Japan. METHODS: Both authors conducted ethnographic fieldwork with communities in central rural Japan. Fieldwork comprised participant observation, semi-structured interviews, quantitative surveys and a review of resources including the personal and public records of wasp collectors. RESULTS: The practice of keeping wasps in hive boxes has historical roots and has changed significantly within living memory. Current attempts to further develop the practice involve collectors' great efforts to keep new queens during their hibernation. Collectors have also tried, still without success, to keep wasps living within a human-made enclosure for their entire life cycle. These and other practices are costly in both time and money for collectors, who emphasise enjoyment as their primary motivation. At the same time, they also engage in practices such as pesticide use that they recognise as damaging to wasp ecology. CONCLUSIONS: These practices can be understood to some extent in domesticatory terms, and in terms of care. We develop a framework for understanding domesticatory practices of insect care, discuss how this case contributes to ongoing debates within domestication studies, and recommend further research to be pursued.



Domestication, Ecology, Edible insects, Japan, Traditional food, Vespula, Wasp, Animals, Domestication, Food, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Japan, Larva, Life Cycle Stages, Rural Population, Surveys and Questionnaires, Wasps

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J Ethnobiol Ethnomed

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC