Mexican Jumping Bean Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Not all beans are the same. In fact, the Mexican jumping bean is a very special type of bean that can be fascinating to watch. In this lesson, you will learn about the Mexican jumping bean and how it got its name.

Why Is It Named That?

Do you enjoy jumping on a trampoline? If you do, then you're just like the Mexican jumping bean. Wait - a jumping bean? Yup! The Mexican jumping bean isn't actually alive, but what's inside of it loves to bounce around like a kid on a trampoline.

Mexican jumping beans aren't like the black or pinto beans you might be used to eating. They're actually the seed pods of a shrub found in Northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. Inside the seed pods are moth larva (plural larvae), which are undeveloped young insects, similar to a tadpole or caterpillar. The movement of the larva inside the pod is what causes the Mexican jumping bean to move, or appear to jump around.

Mexican jumping bean moth

Let's 'jump' right in and learn more about this amazing creature!

Home Sweet Home

Have you ever wanted to live in a real-life gingerbread house? Imagine eating your way through chocolate covered chairs, cherry filled couches, and gumdrop lined bookshelves. This awesome situation is similar to what happens with the moth larva found inside the Mexican jumping bean.

First, moths lay their eggs on the shrubs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae move to the seed pod of the plant, which means they're still inside the pods as the plant releases them. Just like you would if you lived in a candy house, the larvae eat the insides of the seed pod that is their home.

Each larva lays an elaborate web of silk lining inside its seed pod. It then pulls on the silk lining to help it make the pod jump higher or move more quickly. This would be like you spraying your home with silly string and pulling on the strings to make your house move up and down the street. You probably don't want to try that at home because you'll either end up cleaning up a house full of sticky string, or get a ticket for driving an unauthorized house on the highway!

After three months, the larva will enter the pupa stage where the moth remains still inside a cocoon, which means that the Mexican jumping bean will stop moving. Six months later, a moth will break open the seed pod and emerge.

Temperature and the Mexican Jumping Bean

Have you ever been really, really hot? Maybe you've been to the beach and the scorching heat starts to burn your skin, or you've been playing outside so long that you are sweating buckets. Mexican jumping beans do not like the heat either.

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