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  • Writer's pictureCari Mackey

Colorful Legged Bugs of Panama

Remember that person in your life when you were young who introduced you to something new and unique? They inspired you to see the world in a whole new way? That person probably made such an impression on you that they paved a new path of interest and no doubt contributed to the amazing human you are today.

I just heard back from a recent guest who shared with me that her daughters, after their visit here, have zeroed in on Panama because of their love for animals and nature. Their experience here learning about, playing in, and being surrounded by nature has had a profound and lasting effect on them. 



You can imagine how we felt when we heard this - deeply touched. Our whole goal every day, with kids here is to make sure they get out and play in nature, and learn about it too. This way, they are compelled to protect her, and pass that stoke on to others.

Those little girls inspired me right back so today, I'm writing about bugs. Who doesn't love a good bug and holy moly, the bugs here are stunning. And plentiful. No surprise there! 

Some bugs are all about being seen like this here leaf footed bug. Her leg warmers will give pause to the ladies of the 80's and I can dig a colorful outfit like she's rockin' but you gotta wonder - what's it all for? Is it like Lady Gaga - she just loves to be outrageous? Is she trying to be sexy, sexy and it's a mating ploy?

Well, it turns out both males and females get the same look so, no need for envy guys but that does make a night out a bit less exciting. Hmm, it turns out the scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Institute were wondering the same thing so they set out to do some fun yet very intricate experiments and essentially what they found was that those colors are there as a warning to birds not to eat them because they don't taste very good. Remind you of someone

What about this guy? Looks a bit freaky right? Well, if you were his size you might leave a safe distance between you and those wickedly armed femurs. 

This is another type of leaf-footed bug who uses those spikes in battle against other males to win his mate. Brutal. But that's not all; that diagonal area on their thorax is actually a scent gland they use as a defense mechanism.

Kind of reminds me of my brothers farting when we were kids which, I have to say was an effective defense. These armored beauties live up in the lush greenery of the jungle where they chew on sticks and leaves while injecting juices to break down the plants for easier digestion. Both leaf-footed bugs go through the typical bug metamorphosis of egg, nymph, and adult who will live for several months even up to a year.  

These dramatic creatures work hard in the jungle eating and eating which stimulates plant growth, controls different types of plant diseases, and they make for tasty treats to other animals like birds, spiders, assassin bugs (sweet name), and our cute iguanas too.

So that stick this guy was chewing on brings us back around to our cover girl up there. She's a stick bug and wow, their ability to camouflage is impressive - that's actually called crypsis - the ability for an organism to blend in with its environment. I am pretty sure the leaf-footed bug isn't fooled and won't eat its friend. Kind of like trying to pass off a BabyRuth for a Snickers.

Stick bugs or, walking sticks, are among the largest insects in the world. They can get up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length not that you'd ever be able to find one. Mostly living in tropical areas, they serve the jungle like a rabbit does the plains - they feed the hungry, like our bats for example who are not so easily fooled by their crypsis because bats use echolocation instead of eyesight to find their meals. 

So my dear, If that inspiring person of yours comes to mind are you're willing to share with me, I'd sure love to hear it. Or perhaps, you should come here and tell me over a col-col beer. That would sure be sweet!

Your Friends in Morrillo,

Cari and Ryan Mackey

Owners and Hosts

Morrillo Beach Eco Resort

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