June 18, 2010


As the first day of summer approaches, the weather becomes warmer, which encourages favorite seasonal pastimes. One of which may be spending the evening outside watching fireflies. These fascinating beetles communicate by light, using bioluminescence flashes, which is produced in an organ in their abdomens. Within the cells in the organ a chemical reaction occurs which results in the creation of an almost heatless light. This light attracts potential mates.

Each firefly species has particular flash characteristics, which vary in length, color, number of flashes, and in length of the interval between each flash. In addition some species have unique flight patterns, and different species can be active during different times of night. During mating season, the male fireflies will emit their flash while flying, in hopes that a female will see this and send flash signals back in return. Some studies suggest that several species of fireflies will lure prey, by imitating the flash signal of other species in order to deceive a small male to fly to a large female that will eat him and vice versa.

If planning on observing these beetles on a closer level, be respectful and do not keep them captive in a jar or other container for more than five minutes. Fireflies have a tendency to dry out, and can be made more comfortable by placing a moist paper towel inside of the container.

Whether going out alone, or with the family, be mindful when observing fireflies up close. Since they rely on light, bringing a flashlight along will disrupt their communication, unless it is emitting the color blue since fireflies cannot see blue light. This problem can be solved by taping a piece of blue acetate to the front of the flashlight.

Wearing appropriate clothing will also be a wise choice when going outside at night. Long sleeved shirts, socks, pants, and closed toed shoes are good at preventing ticks and other biting insects.

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