firefly

Fireflies are familiar, but few realize that these insects are actually beetles, nocturnal members of the family Lampyridae. Most fireflies are winged, which distinguishes them from other luminescent insects of the same family, commonly known as glowworms.

There are about 2,000 firefly species. These insects live in a variety of warm environments, as well as in more temperate regions, and are a familiar sight on summer evenings. Fireflies love moisture and often live in humid regions of Asia and the Americas. In drier areas, they are found around wet or damp areas that retain moisture.

Fireflies

Fireflies

Everyone knows how fireflies got their name, but many people don’t know how the insects produce their signature glow. Fireflies have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. The insects take in oxygen and, inside special cells, combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat.

Firefly light is usually intermittent, and flashes in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is an optical signal that helps fireflies find potential mates. Scientists are not sure how the insects regulate this process to turn their lights on and off.

Fact About FireFlies

Fireflies talk to each other with light.

Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. In most, however, both sexes glow; often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees, shrubs and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she’ll signal it with a flash of her own.

Fireflies produce “cold light.”

Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.”

Fireflies

Fireflies

In a firefly’s tail, you’ll find two chemicals: luciferase and luciferin. Luciferin is heat resistant, and it glows under the right conditions. Luciferase is an enzyme that triggers light emission. ATP, a chemical within the firefly’s body, converts to energy and initiates the glow. All living things, not just fireflies, contain ATP.

Firefly eggs glow.

Adult fireflies aren’t the only ones that glow. In some species, the larvae and even the eggs emit light. Firefly eggs have been observed to flash in response to stimulus such as gentle tapping or vibrations.

Fireflies eat other fireflies.

Fireflies - Luciolinae

Fireflies – Luciolinae

Fireflies are primarily carnivorous. Larvae usually eat snails and worms. Some species of fireflies feed on other fireflies—most notable is the genus photuris, which mimics female flashes of photinus, a closely related species, in order to attract and devour the males of that species. But adult fireflies have almost never been seen feeding on other species of bugs. Scientists aren’t sure what they eat. They may feed on plant pollen and nectar, or they may eat nothing.

Fireflies have short lifespans.

An adult firefly lives only long enough to mate and lay eggs—so they may not need to eat during their adult life stage. The larvae usually live for approximately one year, from mating season to mating season, before becoming adults and giving birth to the next generation.

Fireflies imitate each other.

Female photuris aren’t the only impostors among fireflies—the species is surprisingly devious when it comes to imitation. Sometimes male photuris imitate male photinus to attract females of their own species. She shows up looking for food, but instead he gets a mate.

Even more interesting, scientists believe some photinus males imitate photuris females giving off bad impressions of photinus male flashes, scaring off other photinus males and reducing competition.

Fireflies are found on almost every continent.

Fireflies - Cyphonocerinae

Fireflies – Cyphonocerinae

Fireflies love warm, humid areas. Because of this, they thrive in tropical regions as well as temperate zones—they come out in the summertime in these environments—on all continents except Antarctica. Fireflies thrive in forests, fields and marshes near lakes, rivers, ponds, streams and vernal pools. They need a moist environment to survive.

Some species of firefly larvae are generally aquatic—they even have gills—while others live almost entirely in trees.

Fireflies are medically and scientifically useful.

The two chemicals found in a firefly’s tail, luciferase and luciferin, light up in the presence of ATP. Every animal has ATP in its cells in amounts that are more or less constant—or should be. In diseased cells, the amount of ATP may be abnormal. If the chemicals from fireflies are injected into diseased cells, they can detect changes in cells that can be used to study many diseases, from cancer to muscular dystrophy.

But that’s not all they’re used for. Electronic detectors built with these chemicals have been fitted into spacecraft to detect life in outer space, as well as food spoilage and bacterial contamination on earth.

Fireflies don’t make tasty prey.

When attacked, fireflies shed drops of blood in a process known as “reflex bleeding.” The blood contains chemicals that taste bitter and can be poisonous to some animals. Because of this, many animals learn to avoid eating fireflies. Pet owners should never feed fireflies to lizards, snakes and other reptilian pets.

Types of Fireflies

Photurinae

If you live in North America, these are the fireflies you’re probably most familiar with. Not all fireflies in this subfamily light up, but those that do are generally divided into three closely related species.

Photinus fireflies tend to be the most common of this group; about half an inch long, these produce yellow-green light.

Photuris fireflies are larger—almost an inch long—and produce a darker green light. They’re very difficult to distinguish from Photinus from their light alone, even for other fireflies; female Photuris often mimic mating flashes from female Photinus fireflies to attract and eat Photinus males. Because of this, Photuris species are sometimes called “femme fatale” fireflies.

Pyractomena fireflies produce a yellow-amber flicker that looks a bit like a spark from a campfire.

Luciolinae

This is the largest subfamily of fireflies, with member species scattered throughout Eurasia, Europe, East Asia, and Australia. The fireflies within this subfamily all produce light—and flash rather than emit a continuous glow. Here are a few genera of note within this group.

Peroptyx. Species within this group are mainly found in tropical Asia. Groups of fireflies will synchronize their flashes until thousands are all flashing to the same rhythm, producing a stunning display.

Luciola. These fireflies are sometimes known as “Japanese fireflies,” although they’re also found in Asia and more rarely in southern Europe and Africa. In Japanese traditional culture, they are believed to represent the souls of the dead.

Cyphonocerinae

This subfamily of fireflies includes two genera that live in North America and Eurasia. They’re notable because scientists believe they are the most primitive species of fireflies in existence. One genus within this group displays very weak light, while the other does not light up at all.

Lampyrinae

Sometimes referred to by taxonomists as a “catch-all” subfamily classifying fireflies that don’t quite fit into other groups, the species in this subfamily live generally in more temperate northern regions of the world, although a few species are tropical. The group contains both flashing and continuous-glow fireflies. Some larvae species within this group climb trees to feed on snails and bugs.

Lampyris is a genus of firefly within this subfamily found primarily in Britain, and they thrive in old-growth grasslands in soil with high concentrations of limestone and chalk. Only the males fly; the females are larviform, and only they glow. Females crawl onto blades of grass and low vegetation at dusk and emit a yellow-green continuous light to attract mates. Their vernacular name is “glow worm.”

Phausis reticulata also known as blue ghost fireflies. These tiny fireflies are common throughout the southeastern US and are known as the “blue ghost” because they do not flash but glow with an eerie blue or green light. Females of the blue ghost are pale yellow or white in color and lack wings (right in photo below). Males do have wings and can fly (left in photo below). Since they have not be studied extensively little is still known about them and their habits.

Otetrinae

Scientists haven’t decided whether this group should be classified as fireflies; while they share many characteristics of other species, members of the group Otetrinae don’t emit light. They’re considered very primitive forms of fireflies, and live primarily in Eurasia and North America.

Firefly Habitat

Fireflies live in various habitats. Many species thrive in forests, fields or the margins between them. Some live in more arid areas, but they typically follow the rainy season. Fireflies are found all over the world, from North and South America to Europe and Asia.

Most firefly species have one thing in common: standing water. They live near ponds, streams, marshes, rivers and lakes, but they don’t need a lot of water to get by. Vernal pools and small depressions that hold water during firefly mating season can all provide the habitat fireflies need. Most firefly species live at the margins where forest or field meet water.

Scientists aren’t completely sure what most species of fireflies eat. It’s probable that firefly larvae feed on different prey from that of adult fireflies. The larvae are believed to be carnivorous, living off smaller insects, snails and slugs. Adult fireflies may also live on other insects, as well as pollen and plants, but it’s possible that some species don’t eat anything—their lifespan is only a few weeks long. But scientists believe fireflies thrive in wet areas because their prey does as well—including other insects and insect larvae, slugs and snails.

Fireflies love humid, warm environments. In the U.S., almost no species of fireflies are found west of Kansas—although there are also warm and humid areas to the west. Nobody is sure why this is. There are many species of fireflies throughout the world, and the most diversity in species is found in tropical Asia as well as Central and South America.

Fireflies also love long grass. They’re nocturnal, and during the day they spend most of their time on the ground. At night, they crawl to the tops of blades of grass and fly into tree branches to signal for mates. Long grass conceals the fireflies better and allows them a better vantage point for signaling at night, and over-mowing your lawn may disturb your firefly population.

fireflyhttps://i1.wp.com/plexusworld.com/wp-content/uploads/photinus-pyralis-firefly.jpg?fit=500%2C400https://i1.wp.com/plexusworld.com/wp-content/uploads/photinus-pyralis-firefly.jpg?resize=150%2C150 angelsujimeena WorldWildLife,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Fireflies are familiar, but few realize that these insects are actually beetles, nocturnal members of the family Lampyridae. Most fireflies are winged, which distinguishes them from other luminescent insects of the same family, commonly known as glowworms. There are about 2,000 firefly species. These insects live in a variety of...
Fireflies are familiar, but few realize that these insects are actually beetles, nocturnal members of the family Lampyridae. Most fireflies are winged, which distinguishes them from other luminescent insects of the same family, commonly known as glowworms. There are about 2,000 firefly species. These insects live in a variety of warm environments, as well as in more temperate regions, and are a familiar sight on summer evenings. Fireflies love moisture and often live in humid regions of Asia and the Americas. In drier areas, they are found around wet or damp areas that retain moisture. Everyone knows how fireflies got their name, but many people don't know how the insects produce their signature glow. Fireflies have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. The insects take in oxygen and, inside special cells, combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat. Firefly light is usually intermittent, and flashes in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is an optical signal that helps fireflies find potential mates. Scientists are not sure how the insects regulate this process to turn their lights on and off. <h2>Fact About FireFlies</h2> <h3>Fireflies talk to each other with light.</h3> Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. In most, however, both sexes glow; often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees, shrubs and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she'll signal it with a flash of her own. <h3>Fireflies produce “cold light.”</h3> Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.” In a firefly's tail, you'll find two chemicals: luciferase and luciferin. Luciferin is heat resistant, and it glows under the right conditions. Luciferase is an enzyme that triggers light emission. ATP, a chemical within the firefly's body, converts to energy and initiates the glow. All living things, not just fireflies, contain ATP. <h3>Firefly eggs glow.</h3> Adult fireflies aren't the only ones that glow. In some species, the larvae and even the eggs emit light. Firefly eggs have been observed to flash in response to stimulus such as gentle tapping or vibrations. <h3>Fireflies eat other fireflies.</h3> Fireflies are primarily carnivorous. Larvae usually eat snails and worms. Some species of fireflies feed on other fireflies—most notable is the genus photuris, which mimics female flashes of photinus, a closely related species, in order to attract and devour the males of that species. But adult fireflies have almost never been seen feeding on other species of bugs. Scientists aren't sure what they eat. They may feed on plant pollen and nectar, or they may eat nothing. <h3>Fireflies have short lifespans.</h3> An adult firefly lives only long enough to mate and lay eggs—so they may not need to eat during their adult life stage. The larvae usually live for approximately one year, from mating season to mating season, before becoming adults and giving birth to the next generation. <h3>Fireflies imitate each other.</h3> Female photuris aren't the only impostors among fireflies—the species is surprisingly devious when it comes to imitation. Sometimes male photuris imitate male photinus to attract females of their own species. She shows up looking for food, but instead he gets a mate. Even more interesting, scientists believe some photinus males imitate photuris females giving off bad impressions of photinus male flashes, scaring off other photinus males and reducing competition. <h3>Fireflies are found on almost every continent.</h3> Fireflies love warm, humid areas. Because of this, they thrive in tropical regions as well as temperate zones—they come out in the summertime in these environments—on all continents except Antarctica. Fireflies thrive in forests, fields and marshes near lakes, rivers, ponds, streams and vernal pools. They need a moist environment to survive. Some species of firefly larvae are generally aquatic—they even have gills—while others live almost entirely in trees. <h3>Fireflies are medically and scientifically useful.</h3> The two chemicals found in a firefly's tail, luciferase and luciferin, light up in the presence of ATP. Every animal has ATP in its cells in amounts that are more or less constant—or should be. In diseased cells, the amount of ATP may be abnormal. If the chemicals from fireflies are injected into diseased cells, they can detect changes in cells that can be used to study many diseases, from cancer to muscular dystrophy. But that's not all they're used for. Electronic detectors built with these chemicals have been fitted into spacecraft to detect life in outer space, as well as food spoilage and bacterial contamination on earth. <h3>Fireflies don't make tasty prey.</h3> When attacked, fireflies shed drops of blood in a process known as “reflex bleeding.” The blood contains chemicals that taste bitter and can be poisonous to some animals. Because of this, many animals learn to avoid eating fireflies. Pet owners should never feed fireflies to lizards, snakes and other reptilian pets. <h2>Types of Fireflies</h2> <h3>Photurinae</h3> If you live in North America, these are the fireflies you're probably most familiar with. Not all fireflies in this subfamily light up, but those that do are generally divided into three closely related species. <strong><i>Photinus</i></strong> fireflies tend to be the most common of this group; about half an inch long, these produce yellow-green light. <strong><i>Photuris</i></strong> fireflies are larger—almost an inch long—and produce a darker green light. They're very difficult to distinguish from Photinus from their light alone, even for other fireflies; female Photuris often mimic mating flashes from female Photinus fireflies to attract and eat Photinus males. Because of this, Photuris species are sometimes called “femme fatale” fireflies. <strong><i>Pyractomena</i></strong> fireflies produce a yellow-amber flicker that looks a bit like a spark from a campfire. <h3>Luciolinae</h3> This is the largest subfamily of fireflies, with member species scattered throughout Eurasia, Europe, East Asia, and Australia. The fireflies within this subfamily all produce light—and flash rather than emit a continuous glow. Here are a few genera of note within this group. <strong><i>Peroptyx.</i></strong> Species within this group are mainly found in tropical Asia. Groups of fireflies will synchronize their flashes until thousands are all flashing to the same rhythm, producing a stunning display. <strong><i>Luciola.</i></strong> These fireflies are sometimes known as “Japanese fireflies,” although they're also found in Asia and more rarely in southern Europe and Africa. In Japanese traditional culture, they are believed to represent the souls of the dead. <h3>Cyphonocerinae</h3> This subfamily of fireflies includes two genera that live in North America and Eurasia. They're notable because scientists believe they are the most primitive species of fireflies in existence. One genus within this group displays very weak light, while the other does not light up at all. <h3>Lampyrinae</h3> Sometimes referred to by taxonomists as a “catch-all” subfamily classifying fireflies that don't quite fit into other groups, the species in this subfamily live generally in more temperate northern regions of the world, although a few species are tropical. The group contains both flashing and continuous-glow fireflies. Some larvae species within this group climb trees to feed on snails and bugs. <strong><i>Lampyris</i></strong> is a genus of firefly within this subfamily found primarily in Britain, and they thrive in old-growth grasslands in soil with high concentrations of limestone and chalk. Only the males fly; the females are larviform, and only they glow. Females crawl onto blades of grass and low vegetation at dusk and emit a yellow-green continuous light to attract mates. Their vernacular name is “glow worm.” <strong><i>Phausis reticulata</i></strong> also known as blue ghost fireflies. These tiny fireflies are common throughout the southeastern US and are known as the “blue ghost” because they do not flash but glow with an eerie blue or green light. Females of the blue ghost are pale yellow or white in color and lack wings (right in photo below). Males do have wings and can fly (left in photo below). Since they have not be studied extensively little is still known about them and their habits. <h3>Otetrinae</h3> Scientists haven't decided whether this group should be classified as fireflies; while they share many characteristics of other species, members of the group Otetrinae don't emit light. They're considered very primitive forms of fireflies, and live primarily in Eurasia and North America. <h2>Firefly Habitat</h2> Fireflies live in various habitats. Many species thrive in forests, fields or the margins between them. Some live in more arid areas, but they typically follow the rainy season. Fireflies are found all over the world, from North and South America to Europe and Asia. <strong>Most firefly species have one thing in common: standing water.</strong> They live near ponds, streams, marshes, rivers and lakes, but they don't need a lot of water to get by. Vernal pools and small depressions that hold water during firefly mating season can all provide the habitat fireflies need. Most firefly species live at the margins where forest or field meet water. <strong>Scientists aren't completely sure what most species of fireflies eat.</strong> It's probable that firefly larvae feed on different prey from that of adult fireflies. The larvae are believed to be carnivorous, living off smaller insects, snails and slugs. Adult fireflies may also live on other insects, as well as pollen and plants, but it's possible that some species don't eat anything—their lifespan is only a few weeks long. But scientists believe fireflies thrive in wet areas because their prey does as well—including other insects and insect larvae, slugs and snails. <strong>Fireflies love humid, warm environments.</strong> In the U.S., almost no species of fireflies are found west of Kansas—although there are also warm and humid areas to the west. Nobody is sure why this is. There are many species of fireflies throughout the world, and the most diversity in species is found in tropical Asia as well as Central and South America. <strong>Fireflies also love long grass.</strong> They're nocturnal, and during the day they spend most of their time on the ground. At night, they crawl to the tops of blades of grass and fly into tree branches to signal for mates. Long grass conceals the fireflies better and allows them a better vantage point for signaling at night, and over-mowing your lawn may disturb your firefly population.

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