Did you know Fireflies are not flies?
Fireflies, or you can call them “lightening bugs”, are a type of beetle. You can talk like a scientist when you know how to use these two really ‘big’ words to explain the miracle of this bug that can produce light.
- They are in the Lampyridae Family of insects. Lam-py-ri-dae (4 syllables). Word Meaning: ‘shining fire’. . . See the word ‘Lamp’?
- They have the ability of ‘bioluminescence’ (bi-o-lu-mi-nes-cence, 6 syllables). Word meaning: ‘to light up’.
Fireflies are in the family of insects that can make light.
How Do They Do This? (We are so glad you asked!)
The firefly has light cells in its stomach. Two separate chemicals in the firefly react to each other when exposed to oxygen in the air.
This produces a light. And the light can be yellow, green, or orange. The firefly can regulate the flow of oxygen in its stomach (a little light switch?) to turn the light on or off. This determines the flashing pattern.
Amazing, but true what a firefly can do!
Why Do They Light Up?
These fragile creatures are just full of chemicals! The chemicals that make light are a form of communication between fireflies to attract a mate. And, more amazing, is the fact that each of the 2,000 species of fireflies has a different and distinctive pattern of flashing!
The flash also warns predators that, “I don’t taste good. Please don’t eat me.” And that’s good advice, because they do have a bitter defense chemical that tastes horrible to birds and mice.
Glow, Little Glowworm
A ‘glowworm’ is actually the larvae (babies) of fireflies! All glowworms flash light. But, not all adult fireflies can shine. Some species are born without the ability to make light. Individual fireflies can lose the ability to make light later. These unfortunate ones have to use their sense of smell to find a mate.
Did You Know? The North American Swamp Sparrow loses the quality of their song (to attract mates) in later life.
Where Can I See Fireflies?
Fireflies like humid meadows and fields. They come out in the dim twilight of warm summer evenings. A mass of fireflies flashing in the darkness is like the stars twinkling overhead at night.
It is a wonderful and magical sight to see for children of all ages.
Fireflies like to live one year in the same place. This allows their life cycle from larvae to adult to be complete. Habitat destruction,including mowing down fields or building roads are causes of firefly destruction. When a firefly habitat is destroyed, the fireflies don’t just move away, they disappear forever.
Can I Catch Fireflies?
Sure. But keep them in a clean jar with a lid that has air holes in it. (Ask an adult to punch holes).
Be careful with them because they are only one inch big and only live two months. Enjoy them in their natural habitats. But, be a good conservation kid. Be respectful for life and set them free the next day.
Look for “Here Come the Cicadas!” – next in your Summer Reading Fun-Filled Facts about creepy, crawly things!
Do you think you might want to become an Entomologist (someone who studies bugs)?