Why Caterpillar Fungus Is So Expensive | So Expensive

  • Published on Feb 19, 2019
  • Caterpillar fungus is a hybrid of a fungus that kills and lives in caterpillars. It has been used in traditional herbal medicine for many centuries but has gained popularity in recent decades. It can sell for up to 3 times its weight in gold. The high demand has driven up the price, which can be as much as about $63,000 per pound. Some towns in the Himalayas rely on collecting and selling this fungus for a living.
    Following is a transcript of the video:
    What would you do if a fungus invaded your body, and started consuming you from the inside? It sounds like something out of a horror film, but that's actually what happens to a certain type of baby moth.
    The fungus eats its way through the helpless moth larvae and then sprouts out of their heads like a spring daisy. But this rare hybrid, the caterpillar fungus, isn’t just totally fascinating, it’s also expensive. Sometimes selling for more than 3 times its weight in gold!
    Caterpillar fungus grows in the remote Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan Mountains but that’s not the only place you can find it. Here we are in New York City’s Chinatown. And nestled among countless drawers of dried mugwort leaves and hibiscus flowers.
    There it is a small pile of 50 or so pieces of dried caterpillar fungus. Here, 1 gram of it costs about $30. But even that might be considered a good deal. Vendors on eBay, for example, list a gram for up to $125. The price is so high because this hybrid creature is incredibly rare.
    It shows up for only a few weeks each year in remote regions of Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan. And even then, the fungus can be tricky for collectors to find, hidden amidst a sea of grass. For centuries, it’s been a staple of traditional Tibetan and Chinese medicine.
    Kelly Hopping: "Traditionally, it was used as a general tonic, for immune support."
    For instance, a family might add half of this to a chicken soup. And it’s even rumored that it can be used as a sort of Himalayan viagra though there’s little evidence to back it up. People also buy the fungus as a gift or use it for bribes or as a status symbol. As a result, better looking pieces fetch a higher price.
    Kelly Hopping: "It’s all dependent on exactly the color of the caterpillar fungus, even the shape of its body when it died, all of these things that don’t necessarily have anything to do with medicinal value make all the difference for the economic value."
    In 2017, for example, high quality pieces sold for as much as $140,000 per kg, or about $63,000 per pound. Now, caterpillar fungus has always been pricey. But experts say its value really skyrocketed in the 1990s and 2000s because of a growing Chinese economy, and the resulting increase in disposable income. Which ultimately, helped drive a massive boom in harvest.
    In the Tibet Autonomous Region, for example, collectors reportedly hauled out more than three times as much caterpillar fungus in the early 2000s, than they did in the 1980s. And now, many families depend on the cash it brings in.
    In fact, experts say that up to 80% of household income in the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas can come from selling caterpillar fungus. One district in Nepal reported collecting $4.7 million worth of caterpillar fungus in 2016. That’s 12% more than the district’s annual budget! But those profits are at risk.
    Surveys indicate that annual harvests have recently declined.
    Kelly Hopping: "The collectors themselves mostly attributed this to overharvesting, acknowledging that their own collection pressure was driving these declines."
    And it doesn’t help that it’s difficult to regulate the harvest.
    Daniel Winkler: "All these different political units have different policy. In the end, it is really down to county level, how it’s implemented."
    Climate change is also causing problems. You see, the fungus is more abundant in areas with long, cold winters, which are increasingly hard to come by.
    Daniel Winkler: "For the rural economy, if there’s a lot of loss, that would be devastating."
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    Why Caterpillar Fungus Is So Expensive | So Expensive
  • Science & TechnologyScience & Technology

Comments • 464

  • GinHindew110
    GinHindew110 3 days ago +1

    A basic course to chinesse medicine:
    If its rare eat it and your health will improve
    Seriously, they ate powdered fossils...

  • Jackson Ling
    Jackson Ling 4 days ago

    Is this cordicep?

  • Abbadi Abbadi
    Abbadi Abbadi 4 days ago

    Thanks god for everything 🙏😊

  • Tinker Cooper
    Tinker Cooper 5 days ago

    People will buy into anything this is exactly why in these same countries they sale everthing thats gross claim it has medical and sex aids. All completely NONSENSE .. You can bet big pharma would be selling it if the claims had any proof to them.. Its a way to set high prices
    for nothing..

  • Нови Сад Србија

    Serbian scientist is using peruan corn instead of caterpillar to make most powerful antibiotic with that fungus. I use it for year and so and i can tell its incredible ! I get well from any problem i have in two days.

  • Danny Ainge
    Danny Ainge 9 days ago +36

    $35 a gram? No thanks, I’ll stick to heroin.

    • Ivan Lopez
      Ivan Lopez 5 days ago

      Danny Ainge I'll stick to shrooms

  • Brian Kim
    Brian Kim 9 days ago

    Over harvesting? They’re already dead no?

  • Kia Ho
    Kia Ho 9 days ago

    Next Up: Why is a vaginal yeast infection so expensive I So Expensive

  • Hektols
    Hektols 13 days ago

    Do this fungus healthy properties and taste are really worth the prize? It is very likely that there are cheaper, healthier and tastier alternatives around.

  • SupaPLAi
    SupaPLAi 14 days ago +4

    The person who discovered this must've been very hungry or very stupid

  • Kenny Lim
    Kenny Lim 16 days ago +1

    its called cordyceps you uncultured swine

  • Osel Somar
    Osel Somar 17 days ago +1

    I am laughing at the fools believing in the Chinese medicine.
    Asians value items from hard to get animals - shark fins, bear bladder, tiger bones, rhino horn, yet, their health is not better.
    Also, the focus on aphrodisiacs reveals that the Asian men are not too strong in the sex category.

  • Benjamin Le Boutillier

    hybrid? its not a hybrid you make the world more dumb congrats...

  • Ree Meroma
    Ree Meroma 17 days ago +1

    This video made me learn how much of an ungrateful ABC kid I was. What we lacked in other forms of material luxury, we made up with herbs and health food.

  • Sothea Teschea
    Sothea Teschea 17 days ago

    @3:53 and @4:15 the guys talking about anything irrelevant. Haha

  • TheRealConcertKing
    TheRealConcertKing 18 days ago

    Asian countries will buy the weirdest shit.

  • Apeman Commeth
    Apeman Commeth 19 days ago +5

    Can’t they collect the fungus and breed the caterpillars and farm it!

    • Kintsuta
      Kintsuta 9 days ago

      As of now, nobody has figured out how to farm a parasitic fungus. The species specializes in a particular caterpillar, which would also need to be farmed.

  • alus nova
    alus nova 21 day ago +2

    Yet another thing to be annihilated by Chinese custom. Way to go. Japan with sea life. China with any wriggling thing that they think is good for health. 🤦🏽‍♂️

  • ThatXoneXguy
    ThatXoneXguy 21 day ago

    Why did i just know this was going to be some asian shit

  • Hari Shree Joshi
    Hari Shree Joshi 23 days ago +2

    I'm from the Himalayan region of India myself and some of my friends from remote region go to collect this particular fungus. Collecting it is a risky business that involves camping in the wild for several days while risking one's life but at the end the one's who come back with substantial amount of the stuff are paid very well.

  • Dynamic Solution
    Dynamic Solution 24 days ago

    People are gullible, ancient Chinese medicine....I mean first know sale was on eBay 2004

  • Ninja Dog
    Ninja Dog 27 days ago +2


  • Forestt L.
    Forestt L. 27 days ago

    At 0:05 i was like “yo thas a little kinky”

  • dny fakelcve
    dny fakelcve 28 days ago +1

    the fact that my mom made me eat this stuff when i was 5 concerns mE

  • Scott Sullivan
    Scott Sullivan Month ago +7

    Chinese yet again responsible for ecological destruction.

    • fiorita
      fiorita 6 days ago


    • Gendo ruwo
      Gendo ruwo 13 days ago +1

      they are the reason why aliens do not dare invade us.
      be thankful.

  • Amir Hakim
    Amir Hakim Month ago

    Damn chinese really eat everything huh

  • R R
    R R Month ago

    I read Dracula district 😂🤣🤣

  • Bobbi Floss
    Bobbi Floss Month ago +1

    Kelly Hopping sit on my face

  • Sujit Shrestha
    Sujit Shrestha Month ago +1

    Proud to be the citizen of the most amazing and mysterious country

    • Διρhα
      Διρhα Month ago

      Sujit Shrestha wouldn’t be proud of harvesting and eating parasites

  • garfieldandfriends1


  • Alli9_9 Z.
    Alli9_9 Z. Month ago +1

    冬虫夏草!!! Omg I always knew it is expensive, but not that expensive!!! We always have it in soup😅

  • Don Bennett
    Don Bennett Month ago

    It's shit like this that makes it hard for me to take anything from Asia seriously.

  • Ishan Ghimire
    Ishan Ghimire Month ago

    I don't know why people even eat this shit. It's really bitter and the caterpillars are hollow on the inside.

  • sai76
    sai76 2 months ago +1

    It's so expensive because it makes the weiner hard.

  • arsha shakya
    arsha shakya 2 months ago


  • Destroyaar
    Destroyaar 2 months ago +1


  • 92 PLUS
    92 PLUS 2 months ago +3

    Jojo stans rise up.

  • Adam Baum
    Adam Baum 2 months ago

    That's the just plain nutty.

  • Chris Nator 2000
    Chris Nator 2000 2 months ago +1

    All of those things in the herbal store sounds like it should be in harry potter

  • Elyad G.
    Elyad G. 2 months ago


  • Hitler’s Cat
    Hitler’s Cat 2 months ago

    That fungus thing you said in the intro reminds me of symbiotes from marvel.

  • Royal Gopal
    Royal Gopal 3 months ago


  • lyman fischer
    lyman fischer 3 months ago +1

    A good looking woman giving ME a blow job is the only aphrodisiac I NEED...

  • Emerson Lamond
    Emerson Lamond 3 months ago

    Are those profits going to the communities that source it?

  • The Tree Keeper
    The Tree Keeper 3 months ago

    looks like a piece of booga.

  • Sumayma Alvi
    Sumayma Alvi 3 months ago

    I didn't see in market

  • Ahyap Chow
    Ahyap Chow 3 months ago

    The Chinese really their stuff, especially come health concerns, where you guys still fall behind sleeping away your life

  • Rob York
    Rob York 3 months ago

    My friend putted 10 of those in his water!

  • Josh D
    Josh D 3 months ago

    Just sausage meat passing through

  • Asher Scott
    Asher Scott 3 months ago


  • Anton Cvetkov
    Anton Cvetkov 3 months ago

    So what is used for again ? some pseudo medicine ? people are really dumb sometimes

  • DatOneBlueNarwal xD
    DatOneBlueNarwal xD 3 months ago

    I actually like this. Pls don’t call me spoiled... IT TASTES GOOD OK?!

  • Denee Marie
    Denee Marie 3 months ago

    The f*ck is wrong with chinese people. One of their problem is over population and had implemented one child policy and yet they are the topmost country who has absurd beliefs of anything exotic to have great healing powers to cure any type of sickness to lengthen ones life. Trying to solve over population but at the same time creating weird stuffs to lengthen their lives. Stupid! Jesus!

  • Ralph
    Ralph 4 months ago +3

    Why do you keep calling it a hybrid?

  • Nicole Lai
    Nicole Lai 4 months ago


  • Do RC
    Do RC 4 months ago +3

    This is an example of something having perceived value just because it's rare. The fact that better looking pieces are worth more proves that. People are silly.

    • Do RC
      Do RC 4 months ago

      @stickloaf yeah. I'll be dead:)

    • stickloaf
      stickloaf 4 months ago

      yeah? well when one of those guys that eats just the right shaped caterpillar and lives to be three hundred years old you wont be laughing

  • ChrisD4335
    ChrisD4335 4 months ago

    so it started out as false hope and now its rich asshole show off stuff, hmm mmk.

  • 131028 CHOY CHEUK HANG
    131028 CHOY CHEUK HANG 4 months ago

    there was once a ancient chinese who lived a long time ago,he tried each and every stuff to see if it is eatable,and yes,he tried some toxic stuff but was save by those weird exotic things,thus the first chinese machic is born
    By the way,even if its usless,but since you spend a lot of money on it,you will feel like it did something.sometime , feeling better is the way to better health

  • nifepartie
    nifepartie 4 months ago

    I'd like to see the data they used to reach the conclusion about winter. I haven't heard a thing about winter anywhere being warmer or shorter. Actually the opposite. They must be using CNN's skewed statistics.

  • B Yip
    B Yip 4 months ago

    Calm down Animalist. The fungus killed the bug not the people. It's nature. At least we have a HEALTHFUL use for it and helping people thrive in economy. We pay for what we want, At least its for Good Health.

  • imp3r1alx
    imp3r1alx 4 months ago

    Let them learn.. sometimes after a hard lesson people will learn, maybe after the things they harvested gone forever for good

  • Moe F.
    Moe F. 4 months ago +1

    Thumbs up if you thought this was about real catepillars


    It's a mystery why asians are poor, but what's not a mystery is they put everything in their mouths.

  • Zane D
    Zane D 4 months ago

    How did I know the answer was unique growing conditions and third world market. "Hey, Bob! Come eat this thing I found growing out of a corpse, it'll make your dick hard!" $135

  • Jerry N.
    Jerry N. 4 months ago

    I'm glad I was raised by science instead of herbal magic whatevers. My parents are Vietnamese and believe in this Asian herbal medicine stuff. I'm an undergrad biology major now and seeing this would make me laugh if it wasn't so frustrating to see. What molecule in this would be medicinal? How would it interact with your cells? If there isn't an answer you know why.

  • Vinnie A
    Vinnie A 4 months ago

    @1:40 Kelly Hopping your Popping.

  • lambition
    lambition 4 months ago

    In Korea, it is called Dong Choong Ha Cho (Korean pronunciation of Chinese 冬虫夏草). It means, it is a bug in winter and grass (or plant) in summer. There are more than one type of this (grows on different bugs) and some were even farmed in Korea, but the one on the video is the original one used for medicinal purposes.

  • vin 950
    vin 950 4 months ago

    there seems to be no end to the sort of stupid stuff chinese medicine comes up with.

  • Rei pineapple
    Rei pineapple 4 months ago

    So it’s just like ginseng. My granny told me ginseng will costs more if it’s HUGE and got human like face 🤣

  • NPC 076 986
    NPC 076 986 4 months ago

    Please give us citation for your source when you reference climate change.

  • minecraftian 1045
    minecraftian 1045 4 months ago

    the chinese eats everything

  • LORDE 2729
    LORDE 2729 4 months ago

    this is disgusting. we need a meteor to wipe us out. now. ! wtf!!

  • Dan B
    Dan B 4 months ago

    chinese have some expensive memes

  • lmz
    lmz 4 months ago

    white people can pig/dog to dig the fungus and sell it expensive. that is ok.
    but when chinese eat fungus everyone went racist.

  • dauxanh 64
    dauxanh 64 5 months ago

    another expensive food cheep labor

  • Kentro
    Kentro 5 months ago +1

    Why cant it be massproduced? Just breed caterpilars and collect the spores from the fungi when they grow

    • Quân Trịnh
      Quân Trịnh Month ago

      it can . we vietnamese are doing a project about massproducing it relative , cordyceps militaris . We inject spore to the breeding enviroment contain rice and minced worm , and we also hybirdize them to make higher yield

    • Ishan Ghimire
      Ishan Ghimire Month ago

      Yeah, that'll just drive up the price even more, because people want the 'organic' variety

    • King David
      King David 4 months ago

      creepy in way isn't it?

  • LagiNaLangAko23
    LagiNaLangAko23 5 months ago

    Cordyceps? No thanks.

  • homie plastic cups
    homie plastic cups 5 months ago

    My Foot Rungus is cheaper

  • Mingkay Ming
    Mingkay Ming 5 months ago +1

    I felt queasy imagining a fungus popping out of my head ☹️

  • Walter Ruano
    Walter Ruano 5 months ago

    It’s always climate change, always! Every issue these days boils down to climate change. I’m starting to think these videos are climate change propaganda

  • ahri
    ahri 5 months ago

    Or they could just eat a healthy diet... But that's too difficult, huh?

  • Jack White
    Jack White 5 months ago

    I worry about the Chinese.

  • DAC087
    DAC087 5 months ago

    Requires additional biomedical research

  • Electron Resonator
    Electron Resonator 5 months ago

    see how they drive the demand for this fungus?, it's not by the actual benefit of the fungus, but what they believe as benefit of the fungus, even shape and color also take part if it is used as symbol of status

  • Yu Cheng
    Yu Cheng 5 months ago

    The last of us wouldn't affect them I guess

  • Vlad Hardware
    Vlad Hardware 5 months ago +1

    If you can claim something as aphrodisiac, you can even sell human feces for a fortune.

  • Door-to-Door Hentai Salesman

    If it can cure cancer then it's worth the price.

  • MERICA #1
    MERICA #1 5 months ago

    Here’s a pile of my shit its worth 300$ a pound

  • Suyash Dalvi
    Suyash Dalvi 5 months ago

    Percocets Molly Percocets!

  • Kerwin A
    Kerwin A 5 months ago

    can a dead and dry larva and mushroom still possess some sort of magical healing power after it is boiled in hot water where mostly everything that has a nutritional value break down? i guess only some dumb chinese will believe that the answer is a yes.

  • R134eS2o
    R134eS2o 5 months ago

    This is how the zombie apocalypse starts.

  • binay dahal
    binay dahal 5 months ago

    You westerners doesnt know the value of ayurveda

  • binay dahal
    binay dahal 5 months ago

    We call it yarsagumba in nepal

  • Za Ha
    Za Ha 5 months ago

    Sounds like a baby

  • God Wing
    God Wing 5 months ago

    My family sells this and it’s good for your lungs

  • Oodle Richhy
    Oodle Richhy 5 months ago

    Sometimes people not only do stupid things but also feel proud about it. 😑.

  • oddly weirdooo
    oddly weirdooo 5 months ago

    wtf is a caterpillar fungus. its cordecyeps

  • Honghao Liu
    Honghao Liu 5 months ago

    But did you know some Chinese company made them into pills and marketed the pills as even better than the fungus itself. By weight, the pills sold for a few times the already astronomical prices.

    • Honghao Liu
      Honghao Liu 5 months ago

      Like the fungus essence pill, lol

  • Parzival
    Parzival 5 months ago

    It's called Yarchagumba.

  • Sagar Shrestha
    Sagar Shrestha 5 months ago +1

    I forgot its nepali name.
    Edit: Yarsa gumba