Catching fireflies in summer evening is one of the most beautiful memories of childhood. These tiny twinkling bugs create a truly mesmerizing spectacle. There are more than 2000 species of these tiny lightening bugs. Still, scientists have yet to discover much more about these bugs. Here are some incredible and interesting facts about fireflies that you shouldn’t miss:
What do fireflies symbolize?Fireflies symbolize hope, inspiration, guidance and enlightenment. Their presence makes us nostalgic about the dreamlike childhood, the innocence, the peace, the true inner joy that we had. Just the way, they illuminate the darkness of night; it symbolizes hope even in the darkest phase of life.
Myths and folklores in different cultures about fireflies!There are many interesting legends, myth or folklores about fireflies in different cultures. In ancient times, Japanese believed that the ghosts of Japanese warriors sometimes return as fireflies. Thus, they should be respected and honored. Romans name the goddess Diana as Diana Lucifera. Diana is the goddess of full moon and the term “Lucifer” means light-bearing. Thus, she is named so. Victorians were quite superstitious about these glowing beetles. As per the ancient Victorian tradition, presence of firefly in someone’s house was the indication that someone was going to die soon. The Ewe people of Togo and Ghana tell legends of a vampire - adze. The adze can take the form of a firefly and then it possesses humans. Therefore, he takes the form of a firefly, enters the house and drink people’s blood.
12 mind-blowing and interesting facts about fireflies!Fireflies – the Lampyridae are a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera. There are more than 2000 known species. These soft-soft-bodied beetles are commonly called fireflies, glowworms, or lightning bugs. Moreover, like other beetles, the fireflies also have forewings, named as elytra. The elytra are for maintaining balance when flying. On the other hand, a fireflies twinkling light is due to the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence.
1. Bioluminescence - the natural phenomenon that produces twinkling light!Bioluminescence is the natural phenomenon that’s not only present in fireflies but also in some bacterial species. A bioluminescent organism has a unique pigment - luciferin in body. Moreover, an enzyme called luciferase plays significant role in bioluminescence as it catalyzes the reaction. When oxygen combines with cell’s energy currency, the ATP, calcium and luciferin, it generates light.
2. Why do fireflies glow at night?Here comes the role of nitric oxide gas that apparently plays significant role in light emission. In daytime, there is low production of nitric oxide. Therefore, oxygen that enters the light organ is bound to the mitochondrial outer membrane. Thus, no oxygen is supplied to the light organ. As soon as the nitric oxide is produced, oxygen flows into the light organ. Here, it binds with the other chemicals and produce bioluminescence.
3. In some species even the eggs glow!It’s common that the larvae of fireflies glow just like adults. Larvae use their flash to warn off the predators. Moreover, their glow gets intense when they are disturbed. On the other hand, it’s rather uncommon that eggs also light up. The eggs glow dimly in the soil.
4. The larval stage is the longest in lifecycle!In lifecycle of fireflies, the larval stage is the longest that can be as long as two years. They usually crawl in damp soil and around weeds and grasses. Without wings, they look like worms, so the larvae are also named as “glow worms”. Moreover, the fireflies get maximum nutrition in larval stage that may be enough for rest of life. The adult stage is short. Thus, some adult fireflies do not eat at all. They just look for mate and eventually die. In some other species, the feed on soft-bodied insects, pollens and nectar.
5. This is why fireflies glow!Aside from being the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence, fireflies use this glow for other reasons too. For instance, when in the larval stage, the larvae use their glows as warning signs to communicate their offensiveness. On the other hand, the adult fireflies use unique flash patterns to identify other members of their species. This flash pattern also differentiates the members of the opposite sex. Studies reveal that female fireflies choose mates depending upon their unique flash pattern. Both pheromones and the luminosity play significant role in choosing the mate.
6. Not all the fireflies have same flash pattern!As mentioned earlier, there are more than 2000 known species of fireflies. Interestingly, they do not share the same flash pattern. Rather, each species has its own unique glowing pattern. For instance, Phausis Raticulata – a tiny firefly species, native to southeastern United States glow green and blue. The male firefly glow in green and pale blue light. Females, on the other hand, glow blue. For the reason, this species is also known as “blue ghosts”. Photinus Carolinus species glow yellow light and also synchronize their flash. Fireflies of genus Photuris glow in single white light like a flashbulb. In nutshell, the glow pattern in unique in each species and distinct from other species. Also read: Interesting facts about zodiac signs
7. Simultaneous bioluminescence is a mesmerizing but extremely rare phenomenon!Simultaneous bioluminescence is an incredibly beautiful phenomenon. In this, the fireflies flash in unison, thus creating a spectacular view. However, this is extremely rare occurrence and happens in two places in the world. These are the Southeast Asia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.
8. Male fireflies glow in search of mate!The male fireflies use a "flash fingerprint" specific to its species. Moreover, they fly and flash in search of mate. In some species, the male flashes just once. While in some species, the male shake their abdomens from side to side. Thus, it appears to be twinkling and in a characteristic “J” shaped pattern.
9. In most European species, the Female fireflies don’t actually fly and they can be cannibalistic!Adult female fireflies are usually flightless. Moreover, they can be cannibalistic. The female firefly of genus Photuris ‘mimic’ to lure male firefly. What happens is that the female firefly waits for the prey, imitates its flash pattern, implying that she is a receptive mate. This is how she lures him into trap and eats it. For the reason, the female fireflies of this species are nicknamed “femme fatale fireflies", referring to “mysterious and beautiful woman”.
10. Fireflies can be poisonous!Don’t be deceived by the charm of fireflies. You will be amazed to know that these tiny creatures can be poisonous. In addition, they use their blood to kill the predator. This is called the "reflex bleeding." In this process, they intentionally shed drops of blood. This blood contains poisonous chemical – lucibufagins. This chemical can even kill their predators such as lizards and small birds. Scientist Marc Branham at the American Museum of Natural History once tried to catch a firefly in a net between his lips as his hands were full with a jar. He immediately experienced numbness of lips and soreness of throat. According to the scientist, the firefly tastes bitter like an astringent.
11. A firefly’s light is most efficient light source in the world!Another of incredible and interesting facts about fireflies! All the other sources of light produce heat energy along with light. For instance, a fluorescent bulb uses 90% of its energy as light and the remaining as heat. Similarly, an incandescent bulb produces light along with heat energy. On the other hand, a firefly produces light but no heat at all. Their flash organ is located adjacent to abdomen. When oxygen combines with luciferin in the presence of ATP, it generates light but no heat. Otherwise, this heat would’ve killed the firefly itself.
12. Their flash is the way of communication!Fireflies rely on the light flashes to communicate, to mark their territory, and warn off predators and most importantly to attract mates. In most species, only the male firefly glow when looking for potential mate. These were some interesting facts about fireflies. Stay tuned for more interesting facts. After all, it’s good to know something about everything. Images courtesy: