Kumak — 1) Parasite, Louse

A parasitic louse.

Kumak is a general term for various types of parasites, but it can refer specifically to the louse. Inuit find lice on many of the animals they hunt, and note that not all species have the same lice. The lice that infect siksiks (arctic ground squirrels), for example, are darker in colour than those that live on the arctic hare. Ptarmigan have many lice in the spring, while caribou lice are rare and are bluish in colour. Marine species such as seals, walruses, beluga, and narwhals also have external parasites.

Kumak — 2) Larva of Caribou Warble Fly (Hypoderma tarandi)

A second species of insect known as kumak is the larva of the caribou warble fly or bot fly. To the Inuit, this fly closely resembles a bumblebee, the "false bee" that comes from caribou, but it is smaller than a bee, silent, and "comes from the caribou". In spite of this distinction, the adult fly is sometimes known as igutaq, the same term that is used for the bumblebee. It is also called kumavinik, "the one that was a kumak".

During the summer, the adult caribou bot fly lays eggs on the skin of caribou, apparently more on males than on females. These eggs hatch and the small larvae dig their way under the skin, where they remain for the winter. Each larva is enclosed by a "shell" filled with liquid, forming small capsules that the Inuit consider to be great delicacy. Around June of the following year, the larvae burrow back out through the skin of the caribou and fall to the ground. This burrowing creates unsightly holes in the skin, which is rendered unsuitable for making clothing until the holes have healed, later on in the summer. After leaving the caribou, the larvae pass through a pupal stage, miqqulingiaq, before emerging as flies and beginning the cycle once again. Unlike the bees that they resemble, adult bot flies are not particularly feared by the Inuit.