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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Mimicry and bioluminascence


Dear Ed,

I got anther question concerning the glowworm Arachnocampa luminosa. The purpose of its bioluminescence is to attract other smaller insects to come close and then become its food. Right? But to human eyes, the glowing of this bug looks so much alike to the starry night. Under this case, can we say that this bioluminescence is a sort of mimicry???

Also,could you tell me what is the exact meaning of Arachnocampa? Arach- means spider in Latin, right? But how about -campa? Isn't it an inflection of the Latin word campus? Which then means field.

Why would any one wanna name a sort of bug "spider field"?

Thank you so much. Really.
Wish you well and a fantastic day!!

Dear Johnnie - Although others have commented on the similarity between the glowworm's bioluminescent display and a clear starry night, I suspect that that this is more coincidence rather than true mimicry. As for the etymology of the scientific name, see for the following: The species originally was described as Bolitiphila luminosa in 1890 (Skuse, F. A. A. 1890: Description of  a luminous diptcrous insect  (Fam. Mytctophilidae), from Ncw Zealand.  Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales (second series) 5: 677-679. ), before being renamed Arachnocampa luminosa in 1924 (Edwards, F. W. 1924: A note on the "New Zealand glow-worm" (Diptera: Mycetophilidae). Annals and  magazine of natural history (9)14: 175-1 79). Edwards reportedly chose the name Arachnocampa because of the “spider-like habit of the larva, forming webs and using them for the capture of insect prey.” Its Māori name is titiwai, meaning "projected over water". See and for more information.
Hope this helps,

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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