Scorching Light of the Fireflies

Posted in Wildlife A-Z | April 8, 2010 | Comment Now

The term firefly is common. Fireflies are also known as lightning bugs. However, not many know that these insects are beetles in reality. They are nocturnal insects belonging to the Lampyridae family. Fireflies have wings. This distinguishes them from other luminescent insects belonging to the same family, which are known as glowworms.

There are nearly 2000 species of fireflies. They generally live in warm surroundings and temperate regions. They are clearly seen in summer evenings. They love moisture and thrive in the humid regions of Asia and America. Even in drier areas, they are present where there is ample of moisture.

It is easy to understand how the fireflies got their name. However, not many know how these insects produce their characteristic glow. Fireflies inhale oxygen and combine it with a substance named luciferin in specialized cells. This produces light with negligible heat.

The light generated by fireflies is intermittent. It flashes in patterns. Each species has its own characteristic light. The light generated by the fireflies serves as an optical signal and helps find potential mates. Researchers are yet to ascertain the regulation of turning the lights on or off.

Fireflies generate cold light devoid of infrared and ultraviolet frequencies. The light also serves as a defense mechanism. It acts as a warning sign about the insect’s unappetizing taste. This theory is supported by the fact that even larvae are luminescent.

Female fireflies lay their eggs in the ground. This is the breeding ground of larvae. They develop into adults here. These larvae feed on underground worms and slugs by first injecting them with a fluid that numbs the senses.

Adult fireflies tend to eschew these preys. They generally feed on nectar and pollen. Some adults are known not to eat at all.

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