Mexican jumping beans are a novelty item containing a live larva inside that jumps when heated. The “beans” are actually seed pods from the shrub Sebastiania pavoniana that have been inhabited by the larva of a small moth Laspeyresia saltitans. The larva causes the seed pod to jump and roll around inside its shell by quickly contracting and relaxing its body.
Mexican jumping beans are native to Mexico and parts of the American Southwest. They were first discovered by non-natives in the 1800s and soon became popular novelty items. Today, they are still sold in many novelty shops and nature stores. With the proper care, the living larva inside the jumping beans can be kept alive for several months.
Purchasing Jumping Beans
Mexican jumping beans can be purchased online or from novelty shops and nature stores. When selecting beans, look for the following signs that the larva inside is still alive:
– The bean should rattle when shaken, indicating the larva is moving inside.
– The bean should feel firm, not dried out. Soft, squishy beans are dead.
– Avoid beans with holes or cracks, which indicate the larva has emerged.
– Look for beans that jump or roll when heated or shaken. This shows an active larva inside.
Once you have identified live beans, purchase a few more than you need. Have extra beans on hand in case any die early on. Jumping bean larvae can easily die from inadequate care.
Creating the Proper Environment
To keep jumping bean larvae alive, it is important to recreate the hot, arid climate they thrive in. This involves maintaining proper temperature, humidity, and moisture levels.
Jumping beans require consistently warm temperatures between 70-90°F. Lower temperatures will cause the larva to become motionless and die. Higher temperatures can also kill the larva. Ideal temperatures are 75-80°F.
Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature wherever you are keeping the beans. Place them near a heat source like a lamp or heating pad if needed to maintain warmth. Make sure the heat source is not too close to avoid overheating the beans.
The larvae require very low humidity around 25-35% to survive. High humidity levels promote mold growth which can kill the larva.
Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity. Dehumidifiers or drying agents like silica gel beads can lower humidity if needed. Make sure the container the beans are kept in has adequate ventilation to prevent moisture buildup.
While low humidity is needed, the beans should not be kept bone dry. Some moisture is required to keep the larva and seed pod alive. The seeds should feel very slightly moist but never wet or damp.
Add a small piece of sponge or cloth moistened with water to the container to provide some moisture. Be careful not to overwater as excess moisture will encourage mold growth. Check that the seeds do not feel wet or sticky, and refresh the moisture source as needed.
Housing Jumping Beans
The container used to house jumping beans should allow adequate air circulation to prevent moisture buildup. Plastic containers, mesh cages, or wire mesh screens all work well. Avoid fully sealing the beans in an airtight container.
The beans should be kept in a single layer no more than 1-2 inches deep for air circulation. Avoid overcrowding. Place a piece of sponge or moistened cloth in one corner of the container to act as the moisture source.
Keep the container on a heating pad or near a desk lamp to maintain proper warmth. Monitor temperature and humidity closely with a thermometer and hygrometer. Make adjustments as needed to maintain ideal levels.
Feeding the Larva
The jumping bean larvae feed on the inner walls of the seed pod. No additional food source is required. However, feeding the larvae a small supplement can extend their lifespan.
A tiny amount of honey, sugar water, or diluted maple syrup can be applied inside the seed pod with a dropper or syringe. This provides carbohydrates to energize the larvae. However, overfeeding will kill the larvae, so only use a very small supplement once every 2-3 weeks.
Monitoring Bean Health
Check on the jumping beans daily. Look for the following signs of healthy beans and larvae:
– Beans are firmly closed, no holes or cracks
– Larva can be felt moving inside when shaken
– Beans jump or roll when heated or shaken
– Beans feel very slightly moist but not wet
– No mold growth on beans
– Temperature and humidity within correct ranges
Replace dead or dying beans with new live ones. Deceased larvae turn dark and dry out inside the pod. Remove any beans that are soft, moldy, split open, or no longer moving.
It’s normal for some beans to die off over time. Monitor the remaining beans closely and adjust care as needed if more beans are dying. With ideal conditions, the larvae may survive for 3-6 months.
Challenges in Caring for Jumping Beans
While jumping beans are a novel curiosity, keeping the live larvae inside thriving can be challenging. Here are some common difficulties and solutions:
Maintaining Proper Temperature
If temperatures drop too low, larva become inactive and die. If they become too hot, the larvae will cook. Maintain consistent warmth between 70-80°F. Supplement heat as needed. Avoid extremes or frequent fluctuations.
Excess moisture promotes mold growth which can kill larvae. Keep humidity low, beans dry, and allow ventilation. Check for any moist or sticky beans developing mold. Remove and replace moldy beans immediately.
Larvae will emerge and escape from cracked or split pods. Inspect beans carefully for any flaws and remove compromised pods before housing them. Ensure the container has no gaps large enough for a larva to escape through.
Providing Proper Ventilation
Stagnant air and a lack of airflow will kill larvae. Prevent moisture buildup and allow ventilation. Use wire mesh or containers with airflow holes. Avoid sealing beans in airtight containers.
With ideal care, jumping bean larvae may live 3-6 months or more. However, their lifespan is limited. Expect to have to purchase new beans periodically, especially for long-term use. When cared for properly, jumping beans can provide months of fascinating activity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are jumping beans cruel to the larvae inside?
Keeping jumping beans as novelties is not typically considered inhumane. The larvae develop naturally inside the seed pods and live out normal lifespans. With proper care that recreates their native climate, the larvae are not harmed. As long as basic needs are met, the larvae can live healthy lives.
What are jumping beans made of?
Jumping beans are seed pods from the Mexican jumping bean plant (Sebastiania pavoniana). The plant is a type of spurge in the Euphorbiaceae family. The pods contain a living larva of the jumping bean moth.
Where are jumping beans found?
Jumping beans are native to Mexico and parts of the American Southwest. They grow on the jumping bean plant which is found in these arid, warm regions. Jumping beans are harvested from these plants and exported around the world as novelties.
Can jumping beans survive without the larva?
No, jumping bean pods cannot move or jump without the living larva inside. The larva causes the jumping motion by quickly moving its body, which makes the bean jump when heated. Without the larva, it is just an ordinary bean pod.
Do jumping beans jump continuously?
No, jumping beans do not jump continuously. They jump in short bursts when heated or shaken. When kept still at proper temperatures, the larva is inactive and doesn’t jump for extended periods. Brief heat spikes or motion trigger the jumping movements.
Can you propagate jumping beans yourself?
Unfortunately jumping beans cannot be easily propagated at home. The plants can only be grown in very specific hot, arid climates. Additionally, the larvae can only develop inside the pods when a certain moth lays eggs in the right conditions. Home propagation is challenging. It’s easier to purchase live beans.
With the right care, Mexican jumping beans and the living larvae inside can be kept alive for several months as fascinating novelty items. Be sure to provide consistent warmth between 70-90°F and low humidity around 25-35%. Add a small moisture source but don’t overwater. House the beans in a ventilated container and monitor their health daily. Address any mold, escapes, or declines in activity immediately. Though challenging, keeping jumping beans alive is possible with some effort and attentive maintenance. With ideal conditions, these captivating curiosities will jump and dance for your enjoyment!