The Lightnin' Bug

Firefly Day

Jul 7

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Firefly Day
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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, which are not flies but beetles, produce flashes of light in order to communicate with each other and to attract mates. They produce a cold light through a chemical reaction known as bioluminescence. Adult fireflies aren’t the only ones that glow. In some species, the larvae and even the eggs emit light. Each species has its own unique flashing pattern, but only two places in the world have synchronous flashing (called "simultaneous bioluminescence"), where the fireflies flash in unison - southeast Asia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. The color of light emitted by the luceferin molecule in fireflies can range from red to yellow to green. But for just two to four weeks a year, "Blue Ghost" fireflies make an appearance around Asheville, North Carolina. Their bluish light is actually a green, but perceived as blue because of the tendency for the peak luminance sensitivity of the eye to shift toward the blue end of the color spectrum at low illumination levels as part of dark adaptation. Flash! Flash!

The Lightnin' Bug

Fireflies (also known as Lightning Bugs) 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", with 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.


Their chemically produced light from the lower abdomen may be yellow, green, or even pale red, Some species such as the dimly glowing "blue ghost" of the Eastern US are commonly thought to emit blue light, though this is a false perception of their truly green emission light due to the Purkinje effect (a tendency for the peak luminance sensitivity of the eye to shift toward the blue end of the color spectrum at low illumination levels as part of dark adaptation.

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.

Some species synchronize with others in a phenomenon called "simultaneous bioluminescence" which happens only in two places in the world: southeast Asia and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

Alas, for the most part, fireflies don't live west of the Rockies.  

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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The majority of dance descriptions referenced on this site have been taken from the


Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary or the

Scottish Country Dancing Database 


Snapshots of dance descriptions are provided as an overview only.  As updates may have occurred, please click the dance description to be forwarded to a printable dance description or one of the official reference sources.

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