The Lightnin' Bug

Firefly Day

Jul 7

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part."

~ Fireflies in the Garden, Robert Frost (1928)

Fireflies or "Lightning Bugs" (which are actually beetles) produce their fascinating flashes of light through a cold chemical reaction known as bioluminescence in order to communicate with each other and to attract mates. In some species, even the larvae and eggs of these beetles emit light! Though each species has its own unique flashing pattern, there are two places in the world have synchronous flashing where the fireflies flash in unison - southeast Asia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Most fireflies flash a light which ranges from a red color to yellow or a green, but for two to four weeks a year, "Blue Ghost" fireflies make an appearance around Asheville, North Carolina! Their bluish light is actually a shade of green but is perceived as blue as part of the dark adaptation of eyes to shift toward the blue end of the color spectrum at low illumination!
Flash! Flash! 🐞💙👀

The Lightnin' Bug

Fireflies are a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera with over 2,000 described species. They use a chemical process to produce bioluminescence during twilight to attract mates or prey. Fireflies produce a "cold light", witn no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies! 

 

In many species of fireflies, both male and female fireflies have the ability to fly, but in some species, the females are flightless.

 

Fireflies' light is produced when oxygen is mixed with a pigment called luciferin, an enzyme called luciferase, and a chemical that provides cells with energy called adenosine triphosphate. The final part of the formula is uric acid crystals, which are located in the cells that make the light and shine the light away from the firefly's body. 


Males focus on finding a mate and vary the the brightness of their glow and their flashing patterns.  Typically, the females sit immobile, and only flash back when they see a male with a particularly impressive display.  

 

Each species has its own flash patterns.  Some flash only once. Some emit “flash trains” of up to nine carefully timed pulses. Others fly in specific aerial patterns, briefly dipping before sharply ascending and forming a “J” of light. A few even shake their abdomens from side to side and appear to be twinkling.


Alas, for the most part, fireflies don't live west of the Rocky Mountains in the US.  


For more about World Firefly Day, click the blue ghosts in the long exposure photo!

The Lightnin' Bug
The Lightnin' Bug

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