Cordyceps sinensis, also known as Chinese caterpillar fungus, is a parasitic fungus found in Hepialus worms. During winter, the fungus spores enter the worm and develop its mycelium by absorbing the worm’s nutrients.
The worm later died when fully filled with the fungus mycelium. Upon maturity in the summer, the fungus grows out of the worm’s head to a length of about 3 to 10 cm.
In a detailed sampling research paper published by Wu, D.-T. et al. , it is proved that cordyceps collected from Bhutan is a rational alternative of natural C. sinensis, which is beneficial for the improvement of their performance in health and medicinal food areas.
Cordyceps Collection in Bhutan
In Bhutan, Cordyceps are mostly collected in the two main pristine alpine meadows of Laya, Lunana, and Bumthang. Other regions are also emerging in Trashiyangtse and Lhuentse.
In Bhutan, the government first implemented sustainable harvest guidelines in 2004. This allows only household members from registered local villagers to harvest cordyceps in Bhutan, within the village’s vicinity for a limited time in a year. To ensure the protection of the environment, the sustainability of the Cordyceps and the collectors, the collection is overseen by local leaders and forestry services, who also keep an eye out for poachers.
Cordyceps Auctions in Bhutan
Cordyceps harvesters will then dry the cordyceps, grade them accordingly and send them to the local auction markets before it becomes available to the rest of the economy. Auctions are restricted to registered Bhutanese traders.
Auctions are conducted in the township of Bumthang, Wangduephordang, Gasa, Paro, Thimphu, Lhuneshe and Trashiyangtse typically at the Gup Office (county mayor). This information is updated by the Department of Agricultural Marketing and Cooperatives,, part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) of Bhutan.
Cordyceps Export from Bhutan
All cordyceps exports from Bhutan must be accompanied by an export permit and certificate of authenticity from the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) and these will be inspected at all exit points in Bhutan.