The Beauty of Lantern Bugs

Pyrops lantern bug Thailand

If you were to ask two common groups of forest visitors, say a group of tourists and a group of insect enthusiasts, what was the most beautiful insect they had seen in Thailand? We are willing to bet that the majority would say a lantern bug.

Whether you have seen a lantern bug in the wild of the forests, in an orchard or whether you have only seen one in a photograph, there is no denying that lantern bugs are one of Thailand's most beautiful and exotic looking insects.

The lantern bugs are so named, incorrectly, because of a head prominence of some species (i.e. Pyrops) resembling a Pinocchio like "nose" that was thought to emit light in the past. Of course this is not true, it does not emit light, but it is the story of how they gained their common name.

{gallery}Lantern Bugs{/gallery}

So what exactly is a lantern bug? Lantern bugs are known by a number of common names: lanternflies, lantern bugs, and lanthorn flies, and are planthoppers. A planthopper is any insect in the infraorder Fulgoromorpha. The Fulgoromorpha infraorder consists of 20 families at present, and one of these families is Fulgoridae. Lantern bugs belong to this family, the family Fulgoridae.

The family Fulgoridae is quite a large group of insects, mainly found in tropical countries, and currently believed to contain over 140 genera worldwide. The family has undergone little indepth study in the past and there is serious academic uncertainty over the complete taxa due to the past taxa being based largely upon physical characteristics, namely head morphology, and further study is currently ongoing to restructure the taxa based on DNA analysis.

Lantern bugs are typically arboreal, most often associated with a specific host tropical tree and/or vine and this is where you will find them when in the forest. They are generally quite large compared to many other insects and some species can be as long as 75 mm in length. Look on the trunks of larger trees and you increase your chances of sighting one. Certain species use particular fruiting trees as their host, such as Pyrops candelaria and the Dimocarpus longan tree, and can often be sighted in longan orchards in the north of Thailand. You will have to look closely though, because even though they are relatively large they tend not to move unless disturbed and despite their bright colours they can be quite difficult to spot when still.

When you do spot one your heart will lift, whether a species with a head extension or not, they are all fascinating to view up close and have an inherent beauty in colour and form.

Thailand's official species list currently notes 20 species of lantern bugs recorded in Thailand but, as with all arthropods, its more likely that there are many more waiting to be sighted and added to the list of Thailand's known species. So get out there and get looking, it may just be you who finds an unrecorded species.

The photographs in this article have been kindly provided by Les Day at Samui Butterflies and Paul Thompson.

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Paul T's Avatar
Paul T replied the topic: #2438 29 Oct 2014 17:33
Finally got a picture of Kalidasa nigromaculata, in Pang Sida National Park.

onflipflops's Avatar
onflipflops replied the topic: #2443 29 Oct 2014 19:47
As always a great shot of a beautiful bug!

I agree that you do not have to be a 'bugger' to like the Lantern Bugs.
There is a pretty one in Khao Yai that is always present in the first months of the wet season along the 'crocodile'-trail.
If my online search is right this is the Pyrops ducalis. A beautiful species.
And sometimes there is a species at the start of the trail to Haew Narok waterfall, I haven't found an ID, but I am sure you will tell me what it is ;)

Pyrops ducalis

A bunch of Pyrops ducalis, sometimes there are 20 of these on this tree. And in previous years we did see another species on another tree but can not find an image... mostly green with tiny orange dots. But this year I either did not pay attention or they were just not there.

And this is the species I hope you can ID for me.
Paul T's Avatar
Paul T replied the topic: #2453 30 Oct 2014 06:14
What a fantastic start to my morning - I have photos of neither of them - having "serious jealousy" cereal for breakfast!. I am enthused to go searching!! What great finds Flipflops. Are you moving to the "dark side"? I think you could do wonders with a macro lens with your photographers eye.

The last one is interesting - I think its Pyrops cf. oculata. I added the "cf." because when looking it up this morning I noticed that there were variations. Am not sure if this species is known as being highly variable such as some of the other lantern bugs but the pattern on your's seems irregular which is interesting. Maybe the camera angle but maybe not.


I have also put a link to the "official" list of recognized species for Thailand in the"Library" section of the forum for regulars, but here is the list for everyone else as well ......... (updated September 2018)

Subfamily Aphaeninae Tribe: Aphaenini
Aphaena aurantia var. apicata
Aphaena submaculata burmanica
Aphaena najas
Aphaena dissimilis
Kalidasa nigromaculata
Polydictya uniformis
Polydictya tricolor
Penthicodes bimaculata
Penthicodes variegate
Penthicodes atomaria
Penthicodes pulchella
Penthicodes caja
Scamandra rosea varicolor 

Subfamily Fulgorinae Tribe: Laternarini
Pyrops spinolae
Fulgora nigrirostris
Pyrops viridirostris
Pyrops candelaria
Pyrops astarte 
Pyrops connectens
Pyrops karenia 
Pyrops ducalis
Pyrops clavata mizunumai
Pyrops peguensis
Pyrops lathburii
Pyrops oculata
Pyrops shiinaorum
Pyrops pyrorhynchus  (Les & Antonio - Yala)
Saiva gemmata
Saiva cardinalis
Saiva bullata

Subfamily Fulgorinae Tribe: Zannini
Zanna terminalis
Zanna dohrni
Zanna nobilis
Zanna chinensis

Subfamily Fulgorinae Tribe: Polydicta

Polydictya vietnamica
Polydictya Chantrainei
Polydictya sp. new species found in Kaeng Krachan NP by Paul T


"Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius." > Edward O. Wilson

"An understanding of the Natural World and whats in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment." > Sir David Attenborough

“Climb up on some hill at sunrise.  Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.” > Robb Sagendorph


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