The Lantern bug (pyrops candelaria)
These beautiful, intricate bugs are one of my favourite insects to find in Hong Kong. And look as bonkers as Santa Claus.
Found across the Asian tropics the Lantern bug (pyrops candelaria) is a weird and wonderful insect: it has a head that is produced into a hollow structure resembling a rhino horn often nearly as large as its body, six legs, extremely varied and brilliant contrasting coloration, the mouth of a mosquito, and often stays for generations on the same tree. Its fantastic appearance is matched by the myth that the head structure was luminous at night. Carl Linnaeus coined both common and latin names to illustrate the supposed fact, adopting the statement without question from a lady entomologist in 1690. By the time the error was discovered, both names had stuck.
A bit like London buses. You don't see any for ages, then two come along at once! Actually, its quite common to find quite a few of these bugs congregate together on one tree.
Its eating habits are equally interesting, as it uses its sharp rostrum to puncture trees, fruit, and plants in order to get a juicy meal of sticky sap. Since sap is high in sugar and low in the other nutrients needed for insect development, it needs to eat a lot. But then the large amount of sugar causes a problem for the lantern bug; it solves this by allowing the excess sap to drip from its body as honeydew. So you can sometimes find moths or even geckos licking the behinds of these strange beasts. This bug goes through an incomplete metamorphosis. From egg to nymph, which simply grows into a larger version as the adult.
And Happy Christmas, or enjoy your non-denominational festive occasion as we used to have to say at The Economist, very PC dontcha know.
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