This is a large and highly diverse group in the tropics throughout the world (Nault and Rodriguez 1985). The Neotropical species are not well known but already number some 498 genera and 2,794 species (O'Brien pers. comm.), and new forms are being found continually. They are mostly small (BL 10 mm or less) and difficult to characterize anatomically because of their varied body types. Fairly constant features, however, are antennae that arise on the sides of the head beneath the eyes and a small plate (tegula) covering the base of the wing like an epaulet. Also, the inner corners of the coxae of all three legs meet along the midline ventrally. Many have convex, inflated or elongated (sometimes greatly so) frontal areas on the head.

The many families are very diverse in body form (O'Brien and Wilson 1985); among the more conspicuous are the wedge-shaped Acanaloniidae and Flatidae. In these, the wings are held vertically at rest and are shaped like half disks, flat along the back, convex along the ventral edge. Many are colorful, greenish, roseate, or whitish and form cryptic, leaflike or flowerlike clusters along plant stems. The Derbidae resemble small, white butterflies, resting with wings outstretched; the fore wing is triangular and much larger than the hind as in the Lepidoptera.

Members of the Fulgoridae are often large (Hogue et al. 1989, Johnson and Foster 1986), and some produce elaborate trailing plumes of white wax from the abdomen. The dragon-headed bugs (Ful-gora) belong to this group (see below). In such species as Cerogenes auricoma (WS 7 cm, BWL 3.5 cm; blackish fore wing with red base, hind wing white with black apex; fig. 8.9c), Pterodictya reticularis (WS 5.5 cm, BWL 3 cm; greenish, semitransparent, reticulate wings; fig. 8.9b), and Phenax variegata (WS 9 cm, BWL 4 cm; mottled, black and white wings; fig. 8.8a), these excrescences are dense and featherlike and reach several centimeters in length behind the body. The tail of C. auricoma ("flying

Figure 8.8 PLANTHOPPERS (FULGORIDAE). (a) Variegate giant planthopper (Phenax varie-gata). (b) Red-dotted planthopper (Lystra strigata). (c) Dragon-headed bug (Fulgora tatemaría).

Lattin For Flying Rodent
Figure 8.9 PLANTHOPPERS (FULGORIDAE). (a) Saw-nosed planthopper (Cathedra serrata). (b) Reticulate planthopper (Pterodictya reticularis), (c) Flying mouse (Cerogenes auricoma). (d) Wart-headed planthopper (Phrictus diadema).

mouse") (Arnaud 1970) may be over 10 centimeters long. It is sometimes observed resting on the trunks and branches of oaks (Quercus conspersa) in southern Mexico and readily takes flight when disturbed. Phrictus (Caldwell 1945) are also fairly large (WS 5.5 cm, BWL 4 cm), snouted bugs like Fulgora, but the irregular proboscis is wartlike and trident apically (fig. 8.9d); they have bright red hind wings basally and erect, black horns over the eyes. These do not produce extravagant wax excrescences like some of their relatives. Another moderate-sized (WS 4.5 cm, BWL 2 cm) but very common planthopper is the snout-less Lystra strigata, which has a black fore wing with white specks and a red-streaked hind margin (fig. 8.8b); it produces modest wax trailers that curve upward.


Arnaud, Jr., P. H. 1970. "Flying mouse" identified as Cerogenes auricoma (Burmeister) (Ho-moptera: Fulgoridae). Pan-Pacific Entomol. 46: 68.

Caldwell, J. S. 1945. Neotropical lanternfliesof the genus Phrictus in the United States National Museum, with descriptions of four new species. U.S. Natl. Mus. Proc. 96: 177-184.

Hogue, C. L., T. Taylor, A. Young, and M. E. Platt. 1989. Egg masses and first instar nymphs of some giant Neotropical plant-hoppers (Homoptera: Fulgoridae). Rev. Biol. Trop. 37: 221-226.

Johnson, L. K., and R. B. Foster 1986. Associations of large Homoptera (Fulgoridae and

Cicadidae) and trees in a tropical forest. Kans. Entorno!. Soc. J. 59: 415-422. Nault, L. R-, and J. G. Rodríguez, eds. 1985. The leafhoppers and planthoppers. Wiley, Chichester.

O'Brien, L. B., and S. W. Wilson. 1985. Planthopper systematics and external morphology. In L. R. Nault and J. G. Rodriguez, eds. The leafhoppers and planthoppers. Wiley, New York. Pp. 61-102.

Dragon-Headed Bugs

Fulgoridae, Fulgora. Spanish: Chicharras machacuy, c. machaca, c. machacú (Peru); portas-linternas (Argentina); mariposas caiman. Portuguese: Cigarras víboras, c. cobras, cobras do ar, c. de asa (Brazil). Tupi-Guaraní: Jaquirana-bóias (jequitirana-bóias, gitirana-bóias, tiram-bóias, jakyranam-bóias, etc.) (Brazil). Alligator-headed bugs, peanut-headed bugs, lantern bugs.

In place of its many existing names, all of which I believe are inappropriate, I am introducing here a new common name for this insect based on the shape and mimetic pattern of the large head protuberance that I believe actually simulates the upturned head of a medium-sized, arboreal reptile (Hogue 1985). The row of squarish spots along either side of the structure is very similar to the scales bordering the margins of the mouth of such reptiles, and the basal prominence on top, with its central orbicular spot, is similar to the bulbous eye of Plica, Enyaliodes, Anolis, and others. The bug's large size (BWL 7 cm, WS 13 cm), elongate form, and mottled green and white wings all assist in this deception. The lizards falsely recognize bugs as their own kind and therefore avoid eating them. A theory that the resemblance is with caimans (Poulton 1924) is untenable since the bugs do not go near water and remain mostly high on tree trunks rather than on the ground.

This is an insect with a lengthy and fascinating history. There are less than a dozen similar species, distributed over most of the Neotropical Region in lowland dry to wet forests (Metcalf 1947, Brailov-sky and Beutelspacher 1978). The best known, F. laternaria, was named for its alleged ability to luminesce. This precept was probably concocted by Nehemiah Grew from reading Mouffet's account of headlight beetles (Pyrophorus) in Insectorum theatrum (1634). The myth has been perpetuated in innumerable publications, including an often-copied account by the famous early naturalist, Maria Sybilla Merian, in her Metamorphoses insectorum surianamensium pubished in 1705 (China 1924).

Other fanciful traditions surround this homopteran (Lenko and Papavero 1979). In most of South America, it is considered deadly venemous. Its resemblance to a reptile may be the source of this idea. Locals shun it even though in truth it is completely harmless. Even the formidable centimeter-long beak it tucks between its forelegs when not in use is never used except to suck sap from the host trees. Also widespread is the story that anyone bitten by this creature must have sexual relations within twenty-four hours or suffer a horrible death. The latter seems to be more of a ruse invented recently by local machos and used to their personal advantage than a valid folktale (Hogue and Lamas 1990).

The folklore surrounding these bugs has overshadowed our real knowledge of their biology (Janzen and Hogue 1983). In spite of the frequency about which they are written and discussed, little is recorded regarding their true habits. Dragon-headed bugs are now known to rest on the trunks of several different kinds of trees that are resinous or have bitter sap. Some hosts are Simarouba amara and Simaba (Simaroubaceae), Hymenaea (Faba-ceae), and Zanthoxylum (Rutaceae) (Hogue 1985), from which the bugs may sequester toxic or noxious substances. This may constitute a secondary line of defense behind their reptilian mask. When dis turbed, they also protect themselves by flashing large eyespots near the outer corners of the hind wings much like eyed saturniid moths.

Adults (fig. 8.8c, pi. le) remain inactive or lethargic during the day but fly at night, occasionally being attracted to artificial light. Unlike other large tropical fulgorids, they do not develop wax plumes that trail from the abdomen. Rather, they have a thin, white, powdery bloom covering most of the whole body which sometimes accumulates in greater quantities at the rear of the abdomen.

The im matures are seen rarely. According to Hingston (1932: 288-290), the females immerse their eggs in a frothy substance that hardens around them, forming a structure similar to a mantid egg case. The nymph resembles the adult in the possession of the inflated head structure but is wingless and much smaller (Hag-mann 1928).

The related Cathedra serrata (fig. 8.9a) is sometimes confused with Fulgora (Squire 1972). It is easily distinguished by its smaller size (WS 6.5 cm, BWL 5.5 cm) and slender, straight head protuberance with conspicuous coarse teeth projecting from the sides in a manner much like the beak of a sawfish. It has the dark hind wing colorfully marked with a large orange orbicular spot apically.


Brailovsky, H., and C. R. Beutf.lspacher. 1978. Una nueva especie de Fulgora (Linneo (Homoptera: Fulgoridae) de Mexico. Inst. Biol. Univ. Nac. Auton. México Ser. Zool. An. 49: 175-182. China, W. E. 1924. On the luminosity of La-ternaria phosphorea, L. Entomol. Soc. London Trans. 1924: xlix-lii. Hagmann, G. 1928. A larva de Laternaria phosphorea L. Mus. Nac. Rio de Janeiro Bol. 4(3): 1-6.

Hingston, R. W. G. 1932. A naturalist in the Guiana forest. Longmans Green, New York. Hogue, C. L. 1985. Observations on the plant hosts and possible mimicry models of "lan tern bugs": (Fulgora spp.) (Homoptera: Fulgoridae). Rev. Biol. Trop. 32: 145-150.

Hogue, C. L., and G. Lamas. 1990. The love bug. Americas 42: 24-26.

Janzen, D. J., and C. L. Hogue. 1983. Fulgora laternaria (Machaca, peanut-head bug, lantern fly). In D. H. Janzen, ed., Costa Rican natural history. Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago Pp. 726-727.

Lenko, K., and N. Papavero. 1979. Insetos no folclore. Conselho Estad. Art. Cien. Hum. Sec. Cult. Cien. Tech., Sao Paulo.

Metcalf, Z. P. 1947. Fulgoroidea, Fulgoridae. In Z. P. Metcalf, ed., General catalogue of the Hemiptera. Smith College, Northampton, Mass., Fasc. IV, pt. 9.

Poulton, E. B. 1924. The terrifying appearance of Laternaria (Fulgoridae) founded on the most prominent feature of the alligator. Entomol. Soc. London Trans. 1924: xliii-xlix, PI. A.

Squire, F. A. 1972. Entomological problems in Bolivia. Pest Art. News Serv. 18: 239-268.

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