The cool twilight of summer punctuated with twinkling fireflies can create a magical vibe that can take off all your stress even before you realize. That’s the beauty of our mystic Mother Nature. Fireflies are one of the most fascinating creation of nature that look no less that miniscule stars paying us a visit from the sky. But what makes them so incredibly attractive? How do they glow? Let us find out 25 interesting fireflies facts and learn a bit more about these tiny glowing bugs.
Interesting Fireflies Facts: 1-10
1. First thing first. Fireflies are not flies. They are beetles. How about the name Firebeetles? It is okay but just doesn’t sound nice. However, they do have a different name – lightning bugs.
2. There are different types of beetles. Some of them are winged beetles. Scientifically, winged beetles are from the order Coleoptera. So, fireflies are also of the order Coleoptera. However, not all winged beetles are nocturnal.
3. So, fireflies actually separate out as a different family within the order Coleoptera. The family to which the fireflies belong is known as Lampyridae. All insect within the Lampyridae family are nocturnal.
4. Now here is one interesting thing. Insects in Lampyridae family can glow (i.e. exhibit bioluminescence) but not all of them can fly. Those that fly are called fireflies. Those that don’t fly are called glowworms.
5. There are nearly 2,000 different species of fireflies present on Earth. They all are world’s most efficient light producers. How? 100% of the energy they produce by chemical reaction designed for producing light (this chemical reaction is known as bioluminescence) is used up for light production. Compare this with incandescent bulbs produced by humans. Only 10% of the energy is converted to light while the remaining 90% is lost in form of heat.
6. Here is yet another interesting thing. Not all fireflies glow. Of the 2000 different species that live on this planet, there are a few species that do not glow at all.
7. The big question is, ‘how do they glow?’ Well, the answer to this question lies inside their bodies. They have specialized organs for carrying out the light-producing chemical reaction, i.e. bioluminescence.
8. These special light organs are present right under the abdomen of the fireflies. Inside these special organs is a compound known as luciferin. There is also an enzyme known as luciferase. Inside these special organs, luciferase reacts with luciferin in presence of oxygen, adenosine triphosphate and magnesium ions to produce light.
9. Interestingly, the light produced by fireflies is cold light. This means that no energy is lost in form of heat and the entire energy is used up in the production of light.
10. The light produced by fireflies can vary in color. While yellow is the most common color of light produced by these flying beetles, there are other light variants as well such as, pale red, orange and even green.
Interesting Fireflies Facts: 11-20
11. Here is another interesting fact about fireflies. They do not produce light in the ultraviolet or infrared frequencies. All colors of light they produce fall within the range of 510 and 670 nanometers of wavelength.
12. Irrespective of whether the adult fireflies glow or not, all larvae glow. Bioluminescence is larvae has only one function – ward off predators. Glowing larvae indicate the presence of chemicals that are either toxic or absolutely pathetic in taste. This information is kind of hardwired in predators who keep away from larvae of fireflies.
13. Adult fireflies use their light for attracting mates. Sometimes, the males may flash or sometimes, they may emit steady glow. Now flashing in fireflies are species-specific. In other words, fireflies of two different species will flash in different patterns.
14. Adult females reply to this mating call using species-specific flashing. Sometimes, females can actually process the information from flashing pattern to select the most suitable mating partner.
15. Scientists have noted that there are times when fireflies of a specific species just sync up their flashing in a specific pattern. Scientists don’t exactly know why they actually sync up their lighting but they guess that the bugs do so to ensure that females manage to identify the males of the same species.
16. Once mating is done, females lay the fertilized eggs just under the ground surface or on the surface. It takes about 3 to 4 weeks for the eggs to hatch.
17. At larval stage, many fireflies hibernate throughout the winter. Some can actually hibernate for years. They usually hibernate under tree barks or under the ground. Once the hibernation is complete, they emerge during the spring and feed until summer.
18. After that, the larvae undergo the pupae stage for nearly 1 to 2.5 weeks to finally fly out as adults.
19. Feeding pattern of fireflies differ dramatically from one species to another. However, in case of most species, larvae are actually skilled predators and feed on slugs, terrestrial snails and larvae of other species.
20. In some species, larvae have extremely specialized appendages known as mandibles. These are grooved and allow the larvae to directly inject digestive fluids into their prey. As a result, the prey dissolve from inside and then the larvae suck out the dissolved stuff. Devils! Pure Devils!
Interesting Fireflies Facts: 21-25
21. There are some species of fireflies that lay eggs in water. The eggs hatch there and the larvae have gills and they feed on aquatic snails. Finally after the pupa stage, they fly out to terra firma. Isn’t that weird?
22. Here’s more surprise. Not all species adults are carnivores. While larvae of almost all species are carnivores, the adults may grow up can convert into nectar and pollen diet. Some stay carnivores and some become cannibals. While some just grow into mouth-less adults not eating at all during their adult life phase!
23. As far as their habitat is concerned, fireflies prefer tropical and temperate environments. They are more prominent in wetlands, marshes, woodlands etc. In short, they love moist and humid areas where food is abundant.
24. Some species can be found in dry areas but they will specifically live in localities that damp and wet.
25. Fireflies have an average lifespan of 2 months out there in the wild and the maximum size they can attain as fully grown adults is 1 inch or about 2.5 centimeters.
Did you know the fireflies are gradually declining in numbers and soon enough, they may be pushed to the brink of extinction? This is happening because they are losing habitat because of human encroachment. Also, their declining numbers can be attributed to increased use of pesticides and increased light pollution. Smithsonian.com says that once a habitat is destroyed, fireflies that lived there simply disappear forever. They just don’t migrate to some other place!