Fireflies are light-emitting species available in almost every continent. They are lovely creatures which present beautiful sights, especially when the environment is pitch black. Fireflies are the only living organisms to produce visible light, making them unique. On the contrary, amid the glowing lights, these species can be very toxic to their predators. Keep reading to find out more about this and other amazing firefly facts.
1. Fireflies Are Not Flies
While they are famous by their name, fireflies, they aren’t flies at all; they are beetles. With more than 2,000 described species available, they only get the name because of the light they emit.
2. Fireflies Are Bioluminescent
Fireflies glow because of a chemical reaction in their abdomen involving the protein luciferin, calcium, ATP, and oxygen. This oxidation reaction is generally referred to as bioluminescence. Besides fireflies, glowworms also possess this trait.
3. Firefly Species Vary A Lot
Given that thousands of these species are available, they vary in shape, color, size, and features, such as antennae. The biggest fireflies measure about 1 inch, while some, such as the European glowworms, have no mouths, emerging to mate, lay eggs, and eventually die. Even though some are diurnal, most of the firefly species are nocturnal.
4. Fireflies Are Very Toxic
Fireflies are very toxic to their predators. Pets and animals such as birds, amphibians, and lizards only need to eat one of them to die.
5. They Are Found in Majority of the Temperate and Tropical Regions
Fireflies inhabit temperate and tropical regions. They can be found in every continent except Antarctica. In the United States, you can find them in gardens, woodland edges, meadows, and parks, especially during summer evenings.
6. Some Female Species Trick Other Male Species Before Eating Them
Female “femme fatale” Photuris fireflies usually trick other male species by mimicking the photic signaling patterns before eating them. The other males are lured into thinking that the imposters are looking for a mate.
7. Fireflies Have Varied Diets
Usually, fireflies eat worms, slugs and snails; they paralyze their prey by injecting them with a numbing chemical. Adults can sometimes feed on pollen, nectar, and even other fireflies.
8. They Form A Part Of Human Culture
For centuries, fireflies have been part of human culture around the globe. For instance, Japan views the emergence of fireflies (hotaru) as a sign of the beginning of the season changes. They are a significant source of celebrations for the natives.
9. Adult Fireflies Glow to Attract Mates
Male adults usually use their glow to attract mating partners. Specific flashing and other body movements indicate that a male firefly is ready for breeding.
10. Some Companies Hunt Fireflies for their Luciferase
Fireflies contain luciferase, a valuable chemical for scientific research and food safety tasting. Initially, harvesting it from the species was the only way to obtain this chemical. Even though synthetic luciferase is available today, some companies still insist on hunting the beetles, thereby contributing to their decline.
11. A Firefly’s Glow Is Not Always Friendly
While we might marvel at the beauty of fireflies’ glow, it is not always friendly. In some cases, the light serves as a warning to predators that the firefly is not all that tasty or is toxic. Various species have varying light-flashing techniques controlled by the nervous system.
On the other hand, some species, such as the big dipper firefly (Photinus pyralis), use their light to attract potential prey.
12. Fireflies Are the Most Efficient Source of Light
Fireflies are the most efficient light source compared to other light-emitting sources as they waste little/negligible energy to do so. To put this into perspective, even though they produce the same light brightness, candles emit about 80,000 times more heat than fireflies.
13. The Firefly Population Is Rapidly Declining
Scientists note that the firefly population is on a rapid decline. This can be attributed to habitat destruction, pesticide use, poor water quality, and light pollution, which makes it hard for them to find mates.
14. Even Firefly Eggs Glow
Fireflies take a lot of time in the larvae stage. Interestingly, even these eggs glow in response to vibrations and gentle tapping stimuli.
15. Fireflies Have A Generally Short Lifespan
While it’s true that fireflies can stay in the larva stage for up to two years, they can only survive for weeks or a few months as adults. If anything, most adults don’t have mouths; they only exist to mate, lay eggs, and then die.
16. Some Species Can Synchronize Their Flashing
Also known as the synchronous firefly, Photinus carolinus is a firefly species that can synchronize their flashing. Tourists find this aspect amazing, thronging the Great Smoky Mountains National Park every summer to witness the fireflies light up the forest.