|Museum mounted specimen of Fulgora cf. laternaria|
The fulgorid insect Fulgora laternaria (often misspelled "lanternaria"), is a planthopper known by a large variety of common names including lantern fly, peanut bug, peanut-headed lanternfly, alligator bug, machaca, chicharra-machacuy, cocoposa (in Spain) and jequitiranaboia (in the Amazon region and elsewhere in Brazil).
Fulgora laternaria can reach a length of 85–90 millimetres (3.3–3.5 in), with a wingspan up to 100–150 millimetres (3.9–5.9 in). This insect has a protuberance at its head as long as 10–15 millimetres (0.39–0.59 in), looking like a peanut and showing false eyes to resemble that of a lizard or a serpent, and which was originally - and falsely - believed to be luminescent. When attacked it protects itself by displaying large, yellow, frightening fake eyes on its hind wings, releasing a nasty smelling substance and perhaps with its quite unusual head. Adults can be found from June to December. They feed on the sap of plants, mainly from some trees as Hymenaea courbaril, Simarouba amara and Zanthoxylum species.
A very similar species, Fulgora lampetis shares much of the same range within South America, and many museum and commercial specimens identified as laternaria are actually this species. Though almost indistinguishable, F. lampetis has slightly more vibrant coloration, and a more swollen head protuberance when viewed from above.
In several countries, such as Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, there exists the myth that if somebody is bitten by the machaca, he or she must have sex within 24 hours to prevent an otherwise incurable death. The popular belief in Bolivia (Santa Cruz de la Sierra) is that it is a dangerous insect dependant on its wing colours but the insect is actually harmless to people.
Distribution and habitat
- Wesmael C. (1837) Phosphorescence du Fulgore porte-lanterne, L'institut, Journal Universel des Sciences et des Sociétés Savantes en France et à l'Etranger. 1re Section. Sciences mathématiques, physiques et naturelles. Paris, 5: 259.
- Catalogue of Life
- Carrol L. Henderson Butterflies, Moths, and Other Invertebrates of Costa Rica: A Field Guide
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