|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 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.
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.
In several countries, such as Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru, 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. 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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