Firefly Information

Firefly information: these bioluminescent insects are commonly known as lightening bugs and are so named for their brilliant, flashes of light.

There is absolutely nothing more magical than walking through a meadow during a cool summer evening and watching fireflies intermittently lighting up the night. On moonless evenings these amazing insects can be seen in so many different locations that the entire landscape takes on a three dimensional effect. These bioluminescent insects are commonly known as lightening bugs and are so named for their brilliant, flashes of light. Fireflies are from the Lampyridae family of insects and in the Coleoptera order, which means beetles. With over 1,900 species it is no surprise that not all fireflies are capable of lighting up the evening hours since only the nocturnal species have this distinguishing characteristic. These fascinating insects can be found in areas of moderate temperatures and most tropical regions. When looking for a firefly in their habitat it is much more likely that they will find your sight before you can find them. If you are in a tropical or moderate temperature area during the warmer months simply walk out into a meadow or marsh right at dusk. As you stand there watch for tiny flashing lights in the darkness and once you have seen the first remain still since moments later more will usually follow.

In most cases the fireflies that are showing off their lighting skills as they fly are males who are attempting to attract females. The females will answer this mating signal but usually do so from areas closer to the ground where they perch on a plant to await their suitor. Once the male has spied a responsive female they will continue to signal back and forth as the male closes the distance between them. When the two finally come together mating occurs and then the female will stop signaling in most species. In some species the female will continue to signal but when a male suitor approaches she will snag him for her next meal. After mating the females will deposit her eggs within two days on the ground or just beneath the ground in her habitat. In most species the eggs hatch within a month and the larvae begin to feed on small animals such as snails and other garden pest. Interestingly, while the firefly is in the larvae stage of their life cycle they are often called glow worms since their luminescence can be detected even before the eggs have hatched. The feeding process will continue into the fall at which time the larvae hibernate in underground burrows until the following spring. When spring arrives the larvae appear and feed until the first months of summer. At this time they form small pods made of soil in which to pupate. After six weeks the new adults appear and begin to mate.

In all species of nocturnal fireflies their flashing is done in different lighting patterns. Some species can be recognized by the duration of their signal while others are recognized by the paused between each flash. Still other species are distinguished by the amount of flashes, distance that the male covers between flashes, the colors that are observed in each flash or the composition of the flashes. But there are other ways to differentiate the various species of fireflies. While some species tend to show off their flashes just prior to sunset, others prefer to wait until the sun has set. There are species that show their flashing for hours at a time while others only flash their signals for around thirty minutes. Even more amazing is the fact that each species only flash their signals while within their specific habitat. While there are other bioluminescent species of insect, the fireflies are the only insects that are capable of flashing their lights as a means of signaling.

Predators of fireflies include frogs, spiders and some birds. Studies indicate that the firefly is quite a bitter meal for predators. It is believed this could be another function of their flashing signals. In some instances they may be used to warn predators before they attack or to warn others of their species of the presence of danger. The firefly is a carnivorous insect that eats other insects and in some cases has been observed eating those in their species as well as other species of fireflies.

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