Most animals signal to attract a mate—fireflies use light instead of noises like crickets or pheromones like moths and beetles. Firefly females sit on a twig or plant stalk and flash back when they see the right kind of male flash. The male will come to her and they will mate. Every species of lightning bugs have a different pattern – whether their flash goes vertical, horizontal, quick flashes, or long flashes or like a group in Vietnam, all males flash at the same time. At least one species of firefly is known for the female luring in males of other species by imitating their female’s flash pattern and then eating them when they arrive.
Firefly (lightning bug); there are over 2000 species of fireflies worldwide.
How do fireflies make light?
When two chemicals react, releasing energy which is used to stimulate a release of light photon from an unstable molecule, a light is produced. In a firefly’s tail, one finds two chemicals: luciferase and luciferin. Luciferin is heat resistant, and it glows under the right conditions. Luciferase is an enzyme that triggers light emission. ATP, a chemical within the firefly’s body, converts to energy and initiates the glow. All living things, not just fireflies, contain ATP. This reaction has been turned into commercial purposes in the form of ‘glow sticks’ and in labs for detection of biomolecules like proteins.
Fireflies are found on almost every continent.
Fireflies love warm, humid areas. Because of this, they thrive in tropical regions as well as temperate zones (they come out in the summertime in these environments) on all continents except Antarctica. Fireflies thrive in forests, fields and marshes near lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, and vernal pools. They need a moist environment to survive.
On a warm summer night, turn off the television and lights in/on your house and take chairs to your backyard or nearby park and enjoy with your family one of nature’s finest free performances… ‘Fireflies in the Summer.’