While exploring the grounds of Wildsumaco Lodge on the east slope of the Andes in Ecuador I came across a rather large bug lying on its back. I assumed it was some kind of dead freakish moth and flipped it over to get a better look and was very surprised that it opened its wings to reveal, well, a much more impressive sight than I had expected!
What a cool bug! I made sure that my fellow travelers got to see it, took some photos, and moved on to look at birds. It was only when I returned to the United States and posted a picture of the bug on Facebook that I realized how close to death I had come. You see, the bug was identified for me by Nick of Biological Ramblings as a Machaca, a bug that on occasion bites an unwitting victim who then has to have sex within 24 hours or die. No I am not making this up. Seeing as Daisy was all the way back in New York I would probably have perished had the bug bitten me when I turned it over.
Of course, the idea that a bug could kill you with a bite if you remained chaste is absurd. One can’t help but wonder, however, how many gullible folks were suckered into sharing the loving by those who feigned Machaca bites. And it is not just sexual acts that Machacas inspire! There is a novel, The Last Machaca, a band, Machaca, and a Facebook page!
Though I have labeled this bug Fulgora laternia I am not entirely sure that I am correct. There is another, very similar species called Fulgora lampetis and I have a sneaking suspicion that this is one of the latter. I can’t, however, find an image of F. lampetis anywhere so if anyone can clear up the bug’s identity for sure that would be great!
So, my advice if you are traveling in the home turf of the Machaca is not to pick them up or put yourself into a situation where you can be bit, unless, of course, you have the hots for a traveling companion. Just make sure you tell the tale of the Machaca before being bitten or they might never believe you and you will be left forlorn, and, just maybe, dead.
(This post was first published in November 2010, but a bug this beautiful deserves to be taken out of the archives every now and then!)