15 days ago
The lantern fly lives in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Laos, Thailand and other parts of southeast Asia sneaking into the West. They’re called “planthoppers” due to their herbivorous and rather bouncy nature, or fulgorids— known for their intense wing venation and unusually bright colors! Several genera have elongated portions of their forehead, portions that the previously mentioned early naturalists surely thought they must light up— turns out they don’t glow!
The mistaken supposition that these snooty bugs had to be luminous can be traced back to a German naturalist and Artist named Maria Sibylla Merian. Besides creating visual images of great beauty, Maria wrote scientific pieces that revolutionized both botany and zoology. Despite her illustrative career, her flawed belief in the bioluminescence of these bugs is one of her most lasting marks on entomology.
Bug based mythology aside, their wings are often spotted, striped, or display distinct eyes to ward off would-be predators. Lanternflies attempt to dissuade would be attackers by advertising their disgusting flavor known as Aposematic Coloration. Some exhibit this phenomenon, adopting bright colors when they switch to toxic hostplants with nasty metabolites. These little beasties usually feed on grapes, pines, stone fruits, and apples and turns their wardrobe into drab colors favoring blacks and muted earth tones. When they find a buffet, they chow down, sequester the toxic chemicals present in that plants sap into their own tissues, and assume a new hot-rod paint style complete with bright red hindwings to flash as a threat display.
Once present on a tree, they suck on phloem sap, which shoots right through them, and drain it. This oh-so-pleasantly-named excretion is called honeydew, instead of what it really is: bug diarrhea. This can attract ants, bees, and wasps to the tree. Being sugar water, this collection of excrement tends to grow fungus prolifically, often forming dense mats below infected trees with fungus inhibiting photosynthesis. Buyer beware of this beautiful beast!
#honeydew #lanternfly #themoreyouknow #beautifulbutbeware #MariaSibyllaMerian #aposematiccoloration #planthopper #lanternaria