Twinkle, Twinkle Little…Bug?

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Have you ever been walking in the woods or a field and suddenly seen a tiny light blink

If you waited and watched, you would soon have seen many other blinking lights responding.

Folklore may have had us believing the twinkling lights were magical fairies. Although fun to think about, there is more science than fairy dust going on here. These little beetle-like bugs are using a form of bioluminescence.

Read on to discover more about these living light bulbs!

Living Light Bulbs

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Unlike light bulbs that use energy and a filament to produce a radiant shine, certain types of insects and their larvae use a chemical reaction produced in their bodies.

These chemicals mix to create a luminescent glow that doesn’t generate heat or waste energy. Simply put, the organism needs light to shine in the dark, and its body responds.

Think of the popular glow sticks. Once these are mixed, their glow provides a helping hand in the night. Plus, they are tons of fun!

Who Glows There?

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Perhaps the most well known and familiar of all the bioluminescent creatures is the Firefly or Lightning Bug.  

There are thousands of different species of these winged-beetles, and they are found in most parts of the world.

Not only do fireflies use their glowing personalities to attract a mate, but they also use their rear-shine to communicate.  

They will blink to warn away predator bugs and to defend their territory. Studies have even shown that some fireflies will synchronize their flashing.

Ghostly Glow

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Not all fireflies blink, some have a steady glow. The Blue Ghost Firefly is only about the size of a grain of rice, but its glow can be eerie.

The male Blue Ghosts will rise together in a large group and emit their spooky blue or green glow to the wingless females below. This steady light can last from 30 to 40 seconds.

North Carolina can boast home to thousands of Blue Ghost Fireflies. During their mating season, the floor of Dupont State Forest is a sea of glow-in-the-dark action.

These tiny bugs hover about a foot off the ground making for a beautiful, if not eerie, experience.

Check out this YouTube Video to see Fireflies in action.

Bioluminescent creatures truly are a marvel of nature.

The next time you are out on a summer’s night, forget about looking up to see the twinkling of stars. Look around the fields. You may just catch a glimpse of some living, glowing light bulbs.

Join us again next week when we’ll discover more plants and animals that use bioluminescence.

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