The Myths Behind the Lantern Bug

The nose of the lantern bug (Pyrops candelabria) is actually an extended mouth so that these plant feeders can suck the sap from plants and trees. 

Scientists once believed that lantern bugs were able to produce light, similar to glow worms.  But their wing patterns merely reflect light, making it look as if they are glowing at night.

In several countries, such as Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, there exists the myth that if somebody is bitten by the bug, he or she must have sex within 24 hours to prevent an otherwise incurable death.  At least there is a cure.

But the truth is, lantern bugs can’t bite and are harmless to people.

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Lantern Bug - Pyrops spinolae 

Lantern bugs are planthoppers (Hemiptera - Fulgoridae), typically arboreal, most often associated with a specific host tropical tree and/or vine.

The lantern bugs are so named, incorrectly, because of a head prominence of some species (i.e. Pyrops) resembling a Pinocchio like “nose” that was thought to emit light. Of course this is not true, it does not emit light. Pyrops spinolae (pictured) is known from Thailand, Vietnam and India.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©tajong | Locality: Khao Sok Thailand (2015)


Fulgorid hopper, Menenia terebrifera by Andreas Kay
Via Flickr:
from Ecuador Megadiverso:

Pyrops spinolae by encikgalah (umark munauwar) on Flickr.

The family Fulgoridae is a large group of hemipteran insects, especially abundant and diverse in the tropics, containing over 125 genera worldwide. They are mostly of moderate to large size, many with a superficial resemblance to Lepidoptera due to their brilliant and varied coloration. Various genera and species (especially the genera Fulgora and Pyrops) are sometimes referred to as lanternflies or lanthorn flies, though they do not emit light.
The head of some species is produced into a hollow process, resembling a snout, which is sometimes inflated and nearly as large as the body of the insect, sometimes elongated, narrow and apically upturned. It was believed, mainly on the authority of Maria Sibylla Merian, that this process, the so-called lantern, was luminous at night. Carl Linnaeus adopted the statement without question and coined a number of specific names, such as laternaria, phosphorea and candelaria to illustrate the supposed fact, and thus aided in promoting a belief which centuries of observations have failed to confirm. Wiki

Made with Flickr

Insects from the family Fulgoridae are often collectively referred to as lantern bugs. They belong to the order Hemiptera, which encompasses all true bugs. Fulgorids—especially those from the tropics—are known for their oblong heads. These insects typically rest and feed during the day and fly at night. When Fulgorids lay their eggs, they also exude a frothy secretion which hardens around the eggs to protect them.
A wart-headed bug (Phrictus quinquepartitus) is shown above.


Lantern Bug [Pyrops sp] by Rich Cottrell

“Pyrops is a genus of lantern fly that occurs primarily in southeast Asia, containing some 30 species. They are fairly large insects, with much of the length due to an elongated, upcurving, snout-like projection of the head. The wings are generally brightly patterned in contrasting colors, and they are popular among collectors.” - Wiki

Do we have to collect everything?

Lantern Bug (Fulgora lampestris)

The lantern bug can grow from 1.5 to 3 inches long from head to thorax and has a wingspan of about 2 to 2.5 inches wide, depending on the species. The long “beak” called a rostrum is used to suck the juice out flowers and fruits. The lantern bug is an herbivore. Lantern bugs are called thus because of their bright usually contrasting colors. Their coloring varies for each genus but the colors are bright enough for them to earn their name, despite the fact that no lantern bug actually emits any light at all.

Via:Project Noah with Eijoo & Shrimp