Facts About Fireflies

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Fireflies are one of the most amazing insects that we see around us. It is also known as Lightning Bug for the bright light that it spreads around it. They are actually beetles and belong to the nocturnal family Lampyridae.

Fact 1. Habitat

There are nearly 2000 species of firefly. They mostly live in humid and warm areas and temperate regions like Asia and America. They are seen mostly in the evenings and where the weather is dry, they stay around wet or damp areas like ponds, rotten wood, edge of streams and even drainage ditches. They are fond of earthworms, snails and slugs and other insects as well. Since most of the fireflies have wings, they are distinguished from other glowing insects. They feed during the summer months and hibernate throughout the winter only to come out the next summer.

Fact 2. Structure of fireflies

Since they belong to the beetle family, their forewings are hardened and are called elytra. When they fly, the fireflies hold their elytra out to maintain balance and they use the hind wings to move. Hence they are grouped under the Coleoptera order. The light organs of these insects are located under their stomach. There are special cells inside the abdomen and when they breathe in oxygen, by special ways they combine it with a substance called luciferin and produce light which is however quite cool as they do not use heat energy to produce this light.

Fact 3.

Fireflies are the world’s most efficient producers of light. It is surprising that even the larvae of the fireflies too give off light in the dark. However, the light is often intermittent and the flashes follow a pattern. The patterns are different in each species for which they are so unique. The blinking patterns are found to be optical signals and are means of finding the potential mates. The light of the firefly also serves as a defense mechanism that warns through the flashes about the unappetizing taste of the insects.

Fact 4. Fireflies communicate with each other

Fireflies emit lights not only to find mates or protect themselves; it is their unique way of communicating with each other. The males while looking for mates, flash their specific pattern of light that is special to the species so that interested females can communicate with them. If a female of the same species is available she will reply accordingly to attract the male to her perching ground mostly on low vegetation.

Fact 5. Fireflies glow throughout their life cycle

It is interesting to learn that their ability to flash lights begin with the egg and continues throughout their lives. Actually, the egg, larvae, and pupa have been proved to produce light. But there are some species of adult fireflies do not talk to each other through light signals especially those that are found in the western regions of North America.  

Fact 6. Food habits

It has been found that larvae of the firefly are mostly carnivorous predators and they love to feast on escargot. In the terrestrial areas they feed on snails or worms that they find from the soil. But the fireflies belonging to the Asian species can swim and breathe through their gills and so underwater aquatic snails are their foods. Those fireflies that are arboreal in nature, hunt tree snails for their food. Some are known to be cannibals too as they have been found to feed on mites.

Fact 7. Firefly luciferase in medical research.
Scientists have proved that Luciferase can be used as markers for detecting blood clots, for tagging tuberculosis virus cells, and for monitoring hydrogen peroxide levels in living organisms.

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