Lanterns that do not glow

Lanterns that do not glow.

I have taken numerous photos of these beautiful, intricate bugs which can be found on lychee and longan tree trunks around Hong Kong, but I had never seen them mating before, as they normally do this higher up in the canopy. These two had fallen from a tree in a friend’s backyard. The challenge for me was I only had my most basic lens and equipment with me, and probably only a few moments to shoot this, which is part of what I call the backyard “its happening now, be quick” experience! But you also have to be mindful of getting the best shot possible, so I crouched low, and moved around to make sure I got the best background, a dreamy brown/orange that perfectly sets off the red and green. I wanted to use a wider aperture to blow out the background and keep the subjects sharp, so I moved back, knowing I could crop it later. A bright sunny (very hot) day mean lots of reflected light under the shaded canopy, but I kept my ISO down, and at f8, this meant a shutter speed of only 1/90s, so I was depending on the lens IS as well as steady hands.

Camera Specifications: Camera body: Canon EOS 5D Mark III Camera lens: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens Lens accessories: Polariser Shutter speed at Aperture setting 1/90 sec at ƒ/8 ISO setting. 400 hand-held.


This extraordinary insect has a head that extends 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.

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.