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Did You Know? - Mexican Jumping Beans "Frijoles Saltarines"

Teresa Kendrick

Much of the world has heard about the legendary "Mexican Jumping Bean", the small seed that resembles the common "frijole" or bean, that, when warmed by the heat of the sun or when held in the palm of the hand, moves violently and sometimes jumps into the air. (The French call them "haricots sauters".)

The secret of the seeds is not especially well-known in Mexico, even though they come from a native Mexican plant and are called " frijoles Mexicanos" or Mexican beans in the common vernacular.

Normally, this particular seed allows itself to act as the closed cradle for several species of butterflies and moths. An adult female bores a hole into the tender skin of the young seed and implants a tiny embyro within.

As the embryo grows into a caterpillar, it consumes the nutrients of the seed.

Finally as an adult caterpillar, it breaks open the seed and emerges to continue its metamorphosis into a butterfly (or moth).

However, for some unknown reason, the adult female sometimes seals the seed with a special webbing that does not allow the caterpillar to break out once it is fully grown. It is the efforts of these unfortunate caterpillars to free themselves that cause the seed to move and jump.

These closed seeds are selected and widely marketed as the novelty item on the U.S.­ Mexico border as "The Mexican Jumping Bean."

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This Did you Know provided by Teresa Kendrick


Published or Updated on: January 1, 2006 by Teresa Kendrick © 2008
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