Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Firefly Lightning Bug | Information OnThe Firefly | Lightning Bug Facts

Fireflies are familiar, but few realize that these insects are actually beetles, nocturnal members of the family Lampyridae. Most fireflies are winged, which distinguishes them from other luminescent insects of the same family, commonly known as glowworms.

There are about 2,000 firefly species. These insects live in a variety of warm environments, as well as in more temperate regions, and are a familiar sight on summer evenings. Fireflies love moisture and often live in humid regions of Asia and the Americas. In drier areas, they are found around wet or damp areas that retain moisture.

Everyone knows how fireflies got their name, but many people don't know how the insects produce their signature glow. Fireflies have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. The insects take in oxygen and, inside special cells, combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat.

Firefly light is usually intermittent, and flashes in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is an optical signal that helps fireflies find potential mates. Scientists are not sure how the insects regulate this process to turn their lights on and off.

Firefly light may also serve as a defense mechanism that flashes a clear warning of the insect's unappetizing taste. The fact that even larvae are luminescent lends support to this theory.

Females deposit their eggs in the ground, which is where larvae develop to adulthood. Underground larvae feed on worms and slugs by injecting them with a numbing fluid.

Firefly (Lightning Bug) range

Adults eschew such prey and typically feed on nectar or pollen, though some adults do not eat at all. (NGC)

Information OnThe Firefly - Lightning Bug Facts

Memories of summer as a boy in Indiana include many things - the fragrance of corn ripening in the fields, whip-poor-wills calling in the distance, tree frogs singing in the forested hills and the spectacle of hundreds of fireflies flickering over the fields covered by a magical evening mist.

Fireflies, indeed, seem almost magical themselves with their ability to produce light as they fly almost effortlessly above the grassy fields.

But it is not magic which creates the luminescence. The glow of the firefly is produced by a chemical reaction within their bodies. A chemical called luciferin produces the glow when an enzyme called luciferase is mixed with it. Oxygen is required for this reaction and is supplied by a special opening in the abdomen of the fireflies’ body. The lightning bug, as this little insect is popularly called, can control the intensity of the flash by varying the amount of oxygen which is mixed with the luciferase.

Most light forms we are familiar with produce heat as a waste product of the light producing energy. The firefly has a very efficient means of producing light because no heat is produced by the light it emits. This effect, light produced without heat, is called luminescence, and if the light is produced by a living organism, such as lightning bugs, plankton at sea, or other creatures or plants, it is called bioluminescence.

Fireflies have been studied extensively by biologists, but we still don’t know all there is to know about these fascinating insects. The flashing of the fireflies is thought by most scientists to aid in reproduction. Females, it is assumed, prefer males who can flash their light more frequently than others.

The timing and pattern of the flashing seems critical and varies by species. The light colors of the firefly can also vary by species and can be yellow, green, orange, or red. Some type of lightning bugs can produce two different colors of light.

The male typically flies over grassy fields flashing, the female lies in wait in the grass below. She will answer his flash with one of her own, signaling her willingness to mate.

Fireflies have developed a method to escape predation. Since the flash of light is pretty conspicuous, the male of some types have developed the strategy of turning sharply right or left immediately after the flash. Many critters, like dragonflies and frogs have developed a taste for fireflies. If you are around a pond or stream and notice a frog with a glowing throat you know he has been dining on fireflies.

Mating occurs when the male lands by the female. The female lays her eggs at the base of plants on or in the moist soil. The eggs of some fireflies glow.

The eggs hatch into firefly larvae, which also may glow. These are called glowworms. The females of some fireflies are wingless and are also called glowworms. The larvae stage of the firefly may last one or two years, again depending upon the species. Firefly larvae are predators, consuming snails, worm, and slugs. The larvae stun its prey by injecting it with a chemical which paralyzes it.

When the larval stage is complete, the insect enters the pupae stage. It is now near the surface of the ground. This lasts about three weeks, and the pupae do not feed during this time.

The adult finally emerges, and the cycle begins again. The adult usually feeds on nectar or nothing at all. Adults live only from one to three weeks. Some types of adult fireflies are predators. And some predatory females have learned a way to an easy meal. They have learned the flashing patterns of other species. They flash a male of another species and when he lands to mate, she kills him and eats him. Not nice!

Almost 2000 different species of firefly have been discovered, most in the tropics. The temperate regions of Europe and North America also have large populations of firefly species. Lightning bugs belong in the Lampyridae family, and are really beetles, not flies. The botanical name comes from the same Greek word which is the English source of the word lamp. Lightning bugs range in size from ½inch to about 1 inch. The glowing characteristics of the firefly have been genetically transferred to tobacco plants. Not sure what practical use this is, but it has been done.

Most children enjoy catching fireflies. A number of products have been developed to enhance the experience and ensure survival of the bugs for release back into the wild once you have enjoyed their light show. All the firefly containers found here are meant to only be temporary shelters for your fireflies. Please return the fireflies to where you found them after enjoying them for a day.

You will find our complete selection of firefly products by clicking here. A good book about catching insects and keeping them entitled "Pet Bugs" can also be found here.

The Firefly Lantern has a glow in the dark handle and the large size will hold lots of fireflies. The small Firefly lantern will hold a smaller supply of fireflies. It is of sturdy wood construction. The firefly necklace allows you to have glowing jewelry as you wear your fireflies as jewelry around your neck.

To keep the firefly happy, put a moist paper towel in the bottom of the container you are keeping them in. Also a few grass stems or other vegetation in to give them something to crawl on is much appreciated. At night they will give off a soft glow in your bedroom.


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