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hing hoi chang (หิ่งห้อยช้าง)

Thai. Elephant fire beetle. Name for the net-winged beetle, a lightning bug of the genus Duliticola sp. and belonging to the family Lycidae. It is found in the tropical rainforests of South and South-east Asia. Unlike the males, that go through a partial metamorphosis and transform into ordinary looking beetles with wings, females never leave the larval form, which is heavily armoured. It consists of a flattened body with large dorsal scales, of which the frontal one protects the small head and antennae. The protective frontal scale, as well as the lateral scales, are orange-brown in colour, whereas those in the middle are black. It has an enlarged thorax, which is slim towards the abdominal end. Overall, its appearance is comparable to that of the larvae of fire flies, which in Thai are likewise called hing hoi, though which are usually of a single colour (fig.), i.e. completely brown, grey or black, etc. Females may grow to a length of around 8 centimeters and are about ten times bigger than males. It has three pairs of legs at the front and bristle-tipped stumps along the rest of its body. Different from fire flies, which produce a flashing light, females net-winged beetles emit a constant light, from an organ underneath the tail. This is used to search for food at night and to attract males, who will fly over for mating. Net-winged beetles eat a variety of food, but prefer feeding on snails, especially those of the genus Ovachlamys fulgens. The origin of the name Elephant fire beetle perhaps goes back to the Trilobite-like shape of the female, which -with some imagination- could be compared to an elephant's trunk. Due to this peculiar form they are also nicknamed Trilobite beetles, though those actually more closely resemble the larvae of the genus Duliticola hoiseni.