by Natural Resources Commissioner Suzi Myers
They’re back! The wonderous flashing bugs of the summer. Known by many different names, including lightning bugs and candle flies, fireflies are not bugs, but acutally a beetle. The firefly family, Lampyridae, includes more than 2,000 species worldwide. We have about 170 species here in the USA, but they are found on every continent, except Antarctica. Each firefly species has unique color and flash pattern, with purposes ranging from mating to carnivorous feeding. Fireflies thrive in forests, fields and marshes near lakes, rivers, ponds, streams. They need a moist environment to survive.
Their bioluminescence (light) comes from a chemical reaction inside their bodies. In some firefly
species, only one sex lights up. In most, however, both sexes glow; often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees, shrubs and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she’ll
signal it with a flash of her own. They are also known to flash to attract another species as food.
The fireflies spend most of their lives underground as larva. The larvae live for approximately one to two years, from mating season to mating season, before becoming adults and giving birth to the next generation. They eat snails, worms and other things. They are known to glow as larva also. An adult firefly lives only long enough to mate and lay eggs.
If a firefly is attached, it sheds drops of blood in a process known as “reflex bleeding.” The blood contains chemicals that taste bitter and can be poisonous to some animals. Because of this, many animals learn to avoid eating fireflies. Pet owners should never feed fireflies to lizards, snakes and other reptilian pets.
Although I remember catching fireflies as a child, today’s firefly numbers are dwindling – so each one matters. Catch fireflies carefully, treat them gently and release them into the wild again that same evening, and you’ll be able to enjoy these fascinating creatures without causing any harm.
More information can be found at: Firefly Research and Conservation
Lifespan of the Firefly