Headlight Beetle (Pyrophorus nyctophanus)

What an amazing sight! In the middle of the jungle in absolute darkness – a towering structure more than 2 metres tall – is dotted with countless tiny green lanterns!!

This is the time of a very strange and deadly event – for the flying termites, that is. The towering structure is a huge termite mound, and the green lights attract nocturnal insects, and termites in particular. It’s emitted by the headlight beetle or click beetle larva! A glowing termite mound!

The beetle larva needs the protein in order to complete its transformation to the finale stage of its development, and has evolved to live in the termite mound and live off the flying termites.

This means they have to sync with the reproductive cycle of the termites as it’s only during their annual flight (nuptial flight) they can catch them using their “lanterns”. At this time the winged termites leave their mound to visit a new one and mate there, so there is a lot of traffic between the mounds.

This time is usually at the end of the dry season, and I was lucky to be there to witness it!

Most people link this to the cerrado savanna of Brazil, but as the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park is both dense jungle and open savanna that borders Brazil, it appears that the same also occurs in the densest of the jungle! I wonder if it’s a different species altogether?

Another species found in the Brazilian cerrado is Pyrearinus termitilluminans, but I’ve got no ID to confirm if this species is also present here or not.

In the far upper right corner of this photo you can glimpse the light of the near full moon trickling through the dense canopy.

Strangely the locals think of this as an annual event of the termite themselves, but that is most definitely not the case, as they are the prey!

Unfortunately my stay was way too short, so I missed a night in the village of Florida and a location where the number of these mounds in the open savanna is incredibly dense compared to the jungle. Yet another reason for med to come back, as I simply must create a proper time-lapse of this incredible event.

I’m going to Brazil in November 2013, so I hope to see this again there.

Thanks to Marcos Velasco and Amborotours for making it possible for me to see this magnificent spectacle.

Last Updated on 12 December, 2020 by morten

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