The lanternbug (fulgoridae) is a tropical insect highly sought after by macro enthusiasts – and poachers – due to its exotic look and colourful exterior. Found in tropical rainforests in Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico and Central/South America, these planthoppers, which are related to cicadas, are typically found on trees whose sap they feed on.
Lantern bugs are so named because of its “snout” which was thought to emit light in the past, and local folklore attributed magical powers to the little bugger. The Amazonian Indians in the 19th century even believed that people bitten by the horny-looking creature will die if they didn’t have sex within 24 hours. Hmmm, I wonder if it was more of a popular dating technique to get the girl back then. In reality, the lantern bug’s elongated “Pinocchio” nose is actually an extended mouth to help them suck the sap from plants and trees.
Lantern bugs can be quite large, growing up to 3 inches long with a wingspan of 2.5 inches wide depending on the species. The next time you are in a tropical rainforest, look out for fruiting trees with larger trunks (such as Pyrops candelaria and Dimocarpus longan tree) – they are often sighted on the trunks in groups. They can be difficult to spot as they can remain very still unless disturbed, and will keep moving round the tree trunk when they feel threathened – I played “Bollywood” with one I was trying to photograph for 10 sweaty minutes. But when you finally see them, it is worth every exotic minute :)