The fulgorid insect Fulgora laternaria (often misspelled "lanternaria"), is a planthopper known by a large variety of common names, among them lantern fly, peanut bug, peanut-headed lanternfly, alligator bug, machaca, chicharra-machacuy, cocoposa (in Spanish) 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. The insect was originally - and mistakenly - believed to be luminescent. When attacked, it protects itself by displaying large, yellow, fake eyes on its hind wings to frighten the aggressor, and releases a foul-smelling substance. 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. It will generally remain camouflaged on a tree trunk during the day.
Several very similar species in the genus occur from Central to South America, and many museum and commercial specimens identified as laternaria are actually other species.
Distribution and habitat
This species inhabits tropical forests in Mexico, Central America and South America.
In the 1970s, a Colombian reporter on a trip to Putumayo Department wrote a chronicle about this insect, and related the folk tale that if it bites you, it would cause death unless the affected person practiced a sexual act within 24 hours. Although this species is not venomous, the publication of this text in a national magazine gave notoriety to both the author and the claim.
- Pearson, David L. (1989). "What Is the Adaptive Significance of Multicomponent Defensive Repertoires?". Oikos. 54 (2): 251–253. doi:10.2307/3565277. ISSN 0030-1299. JSTOR 3565277.
- Collins, Adeah (2017). "Fulgora laternaria (Alligator Bug" (PDF). UWI.
- "Si lo pica la machaca tiene que hacer el amor.. o muere". ELESPECTADOR.COM (in Spanish). 2012-12-13. Retrieved 2019-10-18.
- 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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