Saturday, 6 March 2010

The Crocodile Butterfly

A little while ago a strange report appeared in the local paper here......

A building worker had found a huge insect with a crocodile like head. This turned out to be jacare - borboleta, or "crocodile butterfly" (Fulgora lanternaria). You can easily see how it got it's name, but infact it's not a butterfly, and it cannot bite you. Nocturnal, the jacare - borboleta feeds on nectar and fruit and is completely harmless to humans.

The large, conspicuous, head is in fact hollow and can be used as a drum, "headbanging" trees. It may also be a way of scaring off predators, just as the wings have large eye patterns which are flashed if danger threatens.

Being large, nocturnal and, well, weird, a number of myths have built up around F. lanternaria. The English name is the "lantern fly", and it was believed to be luminous, but in fact there is no evidence that this is so. In Brazil it was believed that the head was poison tipped, and any animal, touched by it would fall down dead.

In Colombia and Venezuela, it is claimed that if bitten by one, you must have sex within 24 hours or die a horrible death. As I said, it's actually impossible to be bitten, but it does raise an interesting image of a patient arriving at Casualty.


sann2282 said...

The biodiversity of South America is so amazing! I learnt yesterday that apart from rubber, Kerala has to thank S.America for guava as well!

David said...

Brazil has a lot to thank India for too! Not least the hundreds of thousands of zebu cattle, but also mangoes, sandlewood etc etc. I guess the Portuguese must have been very busy!

Steven said...

Nice tip, thanks. I think I am going to be bitten by the Crocodile Butterfly quite often in future. The cure will be tough but I can manage it :)


Steven said...

The Portuguese were very busy. The Japanese cooking style "tempura" is a Portuguese word for the cookery style they brought to japan.

Similarly the vindaloo curry from Goa is a curry made with vinho (wine) and alho (garlic).


Ruth Stephen said...

There are superstitions associated with insects in India as well. For example if a green praying mantis comes to your house you will acquire /get some money.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! My God! How God is creative in Brazil: a crocodile butterfly!!!!

ebourland said...

Great article. Thank you.

"how it got it's name"



Eric B