Planet Earth is full of weird and wonderful creatures, which is never more apparent than in the insect world. Some insects can fly on broomsticks, are surprisingly good thespians, and even fling their pee to conserve energy. And then some, like this alligator bug, just look downright bizarre.
Recently, footage of a very unusual large winged insect was taken by a man living in the Amazon. On closer inspection, the critter turned out to be an alligator bug, also called a peanut-headed bug (Fulgora laternaria), a type of lanternfly.
These names are slightly misleading, though. The protrusion on the front of the insect is not the head at all but a structure that is used in predator defense. A closer look, and a bit of imagination when looking at the front of the insect, reveals a false lizard face in the structure that is used to deter other lizards from having a tasty snack on the lanternfly.
Both male and female lanternflies possess this unusual “peanut” structure which comes in many different forms depending on the species. This also gives rise to the name alligator bug, as some people think the false face resembles that of an alligator or caiman.
There is also some suggestion that the peanut protrusion acts as a sound resonator, amplifying the critters' sounds through the forest, as they knock their hollow peanuts on tree trunks to make noises.
The term “lanternfly” is also misleading as these insects have no light-creating abilities like fireflies or bioluminescence.
As you can see in the video, the alligator bug is a pretty large insect and can measure around 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) long. When the wings are open the creature has a maximum wingspan of around 15 centimeters (5.9 inches). These wings feature false eye spots, another predator defense technique.
This species is found in Central and South America across, Brazil, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama where they feed on plant sap. This contributes to another predator defense; when threatened the bugs can release a foul-smelling chemical, produced by the resin the lanternfly consumes.