Friday, June 29, 2012

Shining Light on the Firefly

Fireflies are bugs with a glowing, or luminescent, quality.  This light is generated from an organ in the insect's abdomen surrounded by nerves, fatty material and air tubes.  Oxygen combines with a substance called lucifern to produce light without heat.  How the bugs turn the light on and off is not known.  All in all, the Firefly has a cool light meant for the heat of love.  (Best explained in that delightful old song, Glow Worm).

Fireflies are beetles.  The adult Firefly has wings covered by a wing cover.  In many species only the male has wings.  The female sometimes looks much like a larva, which is to say, she resembles a heavily segmented worm. 

The average Lightening Bug tastes bad.  The glowing may serve to warn predators to avoid eating them.  In some species, not only are adult Fireflies luminescent, the eggs and larvae shine too.

Romance is believed to be the main reason for the Firefly's luminescence. Different species have different patterns to their light flashes.  After all that enlightenment, the male and female find each other.  They mate (sometimes the female eats the male in the afterglow).  Within two days, the female lays eggs in the ground.  In a month or so, the eggs hatch into larvae.  The larvae live in the dirt eating slugs, snails and worms.  Over the winter, the larvae hibernate.  In spring, they emerge in a pupa stage.  By summer, they are adults ready to mate. 

Illuminating Firefly Facts

- approximatley 200 species
- they appear on every continent except Antarctica
- average life span larva: 1 year
- average life span adult:  2 months
- size:   1/4-1 inch long

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  1. When I was a kid, I loved chasing fireflies in the yard at night. I still enjoy watching them.

  2. I don't see them often in the city; maybe they avoid it, or they're drowned out by city light, but I'll often see them out in the countryside at night.

  3. Segmented, larva-like, cannibalistic, with a slug, snail and worm diet; kind of creepy for a bug that has been written about so romantically.
    We don't have them in California. Wish we did, though.