It’s that time of the year when we get those warm muggy nights after late day thunderstorms. The kind of weather that just screams summer. It’s also the kind of weather that brings out the fire flies or lightning bugs. Which brings back so many childhood memories of summer for me catching as many as I could in an old pickle jar with holes in the top.
Now some might say there is a bit of a debate on what name they go by but in the Carolinas it’s a pretty evenly split between Fireflies or Lightning bugs. Joshua Katz at NC State researched how and where people use the names and produced this fascinating map.
Did you know weather plays a huge part in their activity?
Fire Flies love warm humid weather but even more important is water. They like marshy low-lying areas where there is moisture and really like tall grass after a rain. They will hang out in the grass by day then come out at night to feed
Fireflies make light without any heat!
Fire flies produce light through bioluminescence when a chemical reaction between luciferase and luciferin occurs in the insects tail. They are the worlds most efficient producers of light. They create light with 100% efficiency. Meaning all the energy is going into light and not heat. This is referred to as “cold” light. To compared old incandescent light bulbs only used 10% of their energy for light and 90% goes to heat.
They communicate with their light:
The number one reason fireflies light up is to attract a mate. They also do it to warn predators to stay away and they can sync their flashing when in large groups.
They have short life spans:
they only live long enough to mate and lay eggs. the typical larvae or glow-worm lives a year then becomes an adult to may and lay eggs then die.
They taste horrible and can be dangerous to pets:
Fireflies excrete small drops of blood and it contains a bitter-tasting chemical that can be poisonous to some animals. This is a defense mechanism but it also means they are dangerous to your dog or cat if they eat them.