Lantern bugs for a Festival of Lights

At this time of year, people across the world will be celebrating Diwali or Deepawali, also known as the Indian festival of lights. Create a lantern bug light holder to celebrate the festival together.

What is a lantern bug?

Lantern bugs, Fulgora and Pyrops, (also known as lanternflies) are found across south and south east Asia, and the Americas; mostly in tropical regions. They are part of the insect group Hemiptera (true bugs), and so have a piercing, straw-like mouthpart through which they eat. Despite their name, they do not emit light but do appear to hold a ‘lantern’ aloft their head.

Why is it called a lanternbug if it does not light up?

Researcher Matt Hayes answers this question for us:

“This strange myth seems to stem from an early description of lanternflies from 1705… German artist-naturalist Maria Sybilla Merian… wrote that the head of a lanternfly can light up at night when both sexes are present, and that the light is bright enough to read by. Since then, scientists have questioned this finding and it has now been pretty comprehensively falsified… Why Merian would make this false claim is unclear but it is possible that she confused the lanternfly with a bioluminescent click beetle that can be found in the same region. Therefore, although we now know that they do not light up, the name has stuck, and lanternflies will likely forever be known for a behaviour they never exhibited.”

This ‘lantern’ is in fact an elongated part of the head! Despite not emitting light, the diversity of style is nonetheless incredible, with some growing to larger than the insect body.

Some, like this peanut-headed lanternfly (Fulgora laternaria) from South America resemble, well, a peanut! This is used as defence, with a ‘lantern’ pattern that resembles snake eyes and wings that can flash eye-spots when needed.

Others, like these Fulgoridae from Asia have long, thin ‘lanterns’ and have bold colours and patterns.

Create a lantern bug

You will need:

  • Recycled glass jar
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue
  • Lantern bug stencil

Simply click on the image to download and print a lantern bug stencil:

  1. Print out or create your own lantern bug stencil, making sure that it will fit on your chosen jar.
  2. Carefully cut out the silhouette.

Top tip: We will be using the white part of the paper so be careful to only make one outside cut – see image.

  1. Create a colourful collage using the tissue paper over the lantern bug shaped hole.
  1. When you are happy with your design, find a clean glass jar.

Top tip: Glass jars from sauces and jams are useful for lots of jobs, not just lantern making and easy to recycle too!

  1. Stick your lanternbug silhouette onto the side of your jar, being careful to stick it ‘messy-side’ down.
  1. Pop a small candle or light inside your jar and see the lanternbug colours shine bright!

Explore more about Diwali, the festival of lights here: CBBC Diwali

Dicover more about the peanut-headed lanternfly from researcher Matt Hayes here: Animal Bytes; peanut-headed lanternfly

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