What Are Mexican Jumping Beans?

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Mexican Jumping Beans have provided hours of entertainment for kids of all ages for many years. Although they do come from Mexico, they are not beans and they do not jump.

Description of Mexican Jumping Beans

  • Mexican Jumping Beans are three-sided "beans" that lurch and roll around when put in a warm or hot location. The "beans" are actually three-side carpals, or sections, of the seeds from a shrub called Sebastiana pavoniana.

Why Do Mexican Jumping Beans Jump?

  • Some carpals contain larvae of Mexican Jumping Bean Moths ( Laspeyresia saltitans). When the larvae move, the beans jump. They will continue to move for weeks, and even months, if kept where they can receive air.

Where Do Mexican Jumping Beans Grow?

  • Mexican Jumping Bean plants grow in arroyos and on rocky desert slopes of Central and South America. Alamos, Mexico, is considered "The Mexican Bean Capitol of the World".

Lifecycle of Mexican Jumping Beans

  • The female moth lays eggs on the immature ovaries of the flowers on the plant in the spring. The eggs hatch and eat into the ovaries. The seed ripens in late summer and split, ejecting the carpals. The larvae live in the carpals until winter, when they spin cocoons around themselves. They mature into pupae and then into moths. They hatch out of the carpals the following spring or summer.

Interesting Fact

  • Arizona Jumping Beans live in the seed carpals of the Jumping Bean Plants (Sapium biloculare). The plants live along rocky washes and slopes in Arizona, United States, as well as Baja California, Sonora and Mexico.

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