Catching Fireflies

One of most amazing things to see is a field full of fire flies during the evening. There are thousands of little glowing flashes that stretch out to the horizon. This happens just as the sun is setting and the world is calming done. It is very calming and almost magical to see. But what are these fascinating bugs?

Judy Gallagher, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Fireflies are also known as lightning bugs. Even though they were given the common name of firefly, these insects are actually beetles. They are nocturnal insects, and are known for their distinctive glowing flashes that light up the night sky. In the larval form they are called glow worms. While in this larva state they will hibernate over winter time until weather warms up again in spring.

The Light
Fireflies are of course named for their unique ability to produce flashes of light. This is a due to a chemical reaction inside of their abdomens called bioluminescence. Many creatures living in the ocean also can produce this type of light, including octopi, fish, and some algae. Fireflies use this bioluminescent light in a few different ways. As larva is is believed the light is used to warn and keep potential predators away. In the adult form it is a method of courtship, and used to attract sexual mates. One female species of firefly even uses the light to attract males from other species to eat them. The light produces is known as cold light, because it has no infrared or ultraviolet. Depending on the species the light can be green, yellow, or red. With a net and a container you can capture a lightning bug and observe it as it lights up.

Location and Diet
Fireflies are located in humid and warm regions. This is normally near marshes and woodland areas. In the United States they are typically located to the east of Kansas, and you will hardly ever find them in the western states. The larva are usually found on rotting wood on the forest floor or on the sides of ponds. The glow worms will feed on snails, slugs, and larvae of other insects. Eventually the larvae will pupate into adults, and the adults will hand out around the same areas. In adult form fireflies feed on different things, depending on species. Some feed on other insects, while others drink nectar from flowering plants.