For centuries, hormigas culonas, or “big-bottomed ants”—a type of large leaf-cutter ant also known as atta laevigata, always female—have been a regional delicacy and source of local pride in Santander, Colombia. They are a very big deal here, dating back to the indigenous Guane people, who viewed the females, heavy with their egg sacs, as symbols of fertility.

Harvested only in the springtime rainy season, the hormigas santandereanas are quite nutritious, packed with protein and low in saturated fat; some locals like to tout their aphrodisiac qualities. They’re served in corner stores and at markets either fried or roasted with salt (and served in small containers or bags); more upscale restaurants give them the gourmet treatment.

Of course, any way you have them, these hormigas are relatively unadorned insects you’re eating. In other words: Don’t look too closely if you’re squeamish. And warning: If you read about the behavior of these ants, which apparently only come out of the ground once a year to lay their eggs, you may thick twice about popping them in your mouth.


Where to Try Hormigas Culonas in Colombia

Barichara is a great place to try these roasted or fried ants, if you dare. We definitely recommend the crunchy, salty roasted hormigas over the fried ones, which are greasier and more coffee-ground-like in texture. We found ours, pictured, at a little tienda on Carrera 5 between Calles 8 & 9 that sold them in small amounts for 10,000 COP back in 2011—as these are delicacies, they aren’t cheap. (They are likely even costlier today!)

Also in Barichara is the highly rated Color de Hormiga (Calle 8, No. 8-44; 726-7156), known for its filet mignon in ant sauce, which is topped with fried ants.

When: The season for these hormigas is primarily April and May.


Alternatively: You can also find these in shops and markets around San Gil and Bucaramanga.

Interested in ants-as-food? You might also want to read about escamoles (ant larvae) in Mexico City.

Updated: March 25, 2024