Bug in Nicaragua
Location: Southwest Coastal Nicaragua
June 24, 2011 6:10 pm
I would love to know what this is.
We really love this insect and the superstitions that surround it. It is a Lanternfly, Fulgora laternaria, and it is commonly called a Peanut Headed Bug or Alligator Bug. Here is what the Virtual Rainforest Website has to say: “This weird looking creature is an insect, in the family Fulgoridae of the order Homoptera. The Fulgorids all have enlarged foreheads, but it is most remarkable in the peanut-head, so named because its head looks like an unshelled peanut. It grows to about three inches (8 cm) long. The peanut-head can’t bite. Its mouth is like a straw, so all it can do is suck juices from plants. That’s why it needs a lot fancy defenses to scare away predators, like it’s strange head. Scientists think that the head is supposed to imitate a lizard’s head, and animals that don’t eat lizards are scared away. It is part of a complex anti-predator scheme the bug uses. The peanut-head has large red and black spots on its underwings that look like large eyes when the bug spreads its wings. If these don’t scare away predators, the bug releases a skunk-like spray. In the rainforest there are so many things that want to eat the peanut-head that it needs a lot of defenses.” Here is a previous posting from our archives where we discuss some of the lore surrounding this interesting insect which is known as a Machaca in South America. Though we generally refrain from citing Wikipedia, we cannot resist perpetuating this fascinating myth: “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.”