Nature Notebook – Fireflies
Fourth of July fireworks may be over, but nature’s lightshow is happening right outside our doors. Fireflies, or lightning bugs are lighting up the dusk skies in forest edges, meadows, and
Fireflies aren’t flies, but are in the beetle insect family, coleoptera. The ones you see lighting up are the adult phase of the insect and light up depending on the species, using varying blinking patterns to communicate with each other to find a mate. The light comes from a chemical reaction in their lower abdomen.
The adult stage of the insect, which is the one producing the light, is only alive for a few months in the summer. The larvae stage of the firefly lives for a few years, doesn’t fly, and feeds on other insects, slugs, and snails. There are over 125 species of fireflies in North America, varying in shape and lifestyle. Not all species produce light as adults, but all firefly species can bioluminescence as larvae.
Firefly species can be split into three main groups depending on their style of courtship. There are daytime dark fireflies which don’t produce light, glow-worm fireflies where the flightless females produce long glows, and flashing fireflies, with their well-known bright flashing.
Firefly populations are in decline due to habitat loss, light pollution, climate change, and pesticide use. If you are interested in learning more about fireflies and helping monitor their populations through Firefly Watch go to www.massaudubon.com.