BUGS, FIREFLIES ARE THE SAME THING
you call them fireflies or lightning bugs? Or do you have another name
for these insects that are neither bugs nor flies but bioluminescent
new book, "Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs" (2017;
University of Georgia Press), by Lynn Frierson Faust takes an in-depth
look at the biology and allure of these familiar night visitors.
the first to offer a comprehensive look at species of the eastern and
central United States. The book is unequivocally the best ever written
on North American lightning bugs.
are found all over the world, native to every continent except Antarctica.
More than 2,000 species have been described, and at least 125 different
kinds are found in this country. Nearly everyone is familiar with the
flying ones, the males. Lightning bugs are one of the few charismatic
insects, meaning people almost everywhere not only recognize these flashy
beetles but also usually have warm feelings toward them and do not consider
them to be pests.
presence of these insects was noted centuries ago. According to Faust,
fireflies were mentioned in Chinese writings more than 3,500 years ago.
If you are still unsure whether you want to call them fireflies or lightning
bugs, she notes some catchy names used in other parts of the world,
such as night traveler, lamplighter and belly of fire.
other organisms having a high species diversity, exceptions exist, but
in the basic life cycle of most fireflies, males fly around in the dark
blinking their species-specific code. A female, known as a glow-worm,
stays on the ground, returning a come-hither signal if she likes the
sequence of flashes overhead.
notes, Flashing is their mating song. Each species has
a signature male flash pattern that its own female can recognize.
Larvae on the ground also glow at night. Sorting out the blinking messages
is essential for a firefly, as well as for a person trying to distinguish
50 accounts of firefly species provide detailed information about their
ecology and general biology. Each account includes Quick ID to aid the
reader in distinguishing a genus or species from other varieties and
a section on what the animal looks like.
of the all-important flash behavior, which is critical for nighttime
identification, is well done, with a chart showing the typical length
of the flash in seconds and the period of darkness that follows. The
habitat where species are found and their geographic range are also
given. Color photographs of male fireflies, glow-worms and larvae that
accompany the accounts are useful in distinguishing among various kinds.
the environmental messages in the book are important for protection
of all wildlife, not just fireflies. The destruction of natural habitats,
especially woodlands and wetlands, and the use of pesticides result
in the loss of many life forms.
unfortunately, face another threat too much light. Unnecessary
lighting in suburban communities disrupts the visual communication between
male fireflies in the air and female glow-worms on the ground. After
reading the book, I stopped turning on our outside lights at night when
they are not actually needed.
excellent book answers a multitude of questions about these twinkling
night travelers. What do they eat? The adults of most species never
eat. They only mate. Can fireflies bite us or attack plants in our gardens?
Easy answer to both absolutely not.
the mysterious light that makes lightning bugs special? The complete
answer, says Faust, lies in a complex chemistry, the details
of which are still being worked out by experts. Scientists do
know that an enzyme known as luciferase is involved in the
fireflies fly, and do they all flash? The answer to both questions is
a qualified no, and discussions of the exceptions are provided.
else, this book will spark memories of the childhood delight you felt
when you caught lightning bugs in a jar and then let them go.
It may also encourage you to turn off the front porch light unless youre
you have an environmental question or comment, email