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12 Interesting Facts About Fireflies

The author is a research enthusiast. She studied botany and zoology as major subjects in her bachelor's program.

A Fascinating Glowing Insect

You must have been surprised to see fireflies for the first time. These are light-producing insects that are an amazing creation of nature. In the darkness of summer evenings, these flashes-producing insects become the center of attention. Some of you must have locked these bright insects in a glass jar in your childhood. They are night-loving insects and are found near moist and wooded areas.

You can call them glowworms, lightning bugs, or fireflies. They belong to the family Lampyridae, in the beetle order Coleoptera and have more than 2,000 species.

1. Extraction of Luciferase—Credit Goes to Firefly

Luciferase is light-producing enzymes that oxidize their substrate called 'Luciferin' in an energetic process. The main application of Luciferase is biotechnology; which includes microscopy and reporter gene. This enzyme is first extracted from fireflies. In the early days, this was only extracted from fireflies. Scientists used ethyl acetate for the extraction of Luciferin from the powder of 15,000 firefly lanterns. It is responsible for the green light emission from the firefly lantern.

2. Most Efficient Light Producer

Their light is the most efficient in the world. That's why scientists refer to their light as "cold light". An incandescent bulb produces light by emitting 10% of its energy and the rest is heat. A fluorescent bulb, which secretes 90% of its energy as light and the rest as heat. Because they don't emit heat in the light-producing process, and for that reason, their light is called cold light. Their light organs are under their abdomen. The oxygen is taken in by the insects, in special cells. It is combined here with 'Luciferin' and produces light in this process.

3. They Attract Their Mates Through Light

Sound strange! But yes, it is true. Fireflies emit light to attract mates. Mostly, both males and females light up, but in some species, only one sex glow. Male fireflies often fly and females wait for attractive mates on trees and grasses. When males want to find females for mating; they flash with a specific pattern, and females respond by flashing. Their 'twinkling conversation' continues until they mate. Photinus greeni– a genus of North American fireflies; it is said about them that they are more choosy than other members of the family. The females of this genus are very prudent in selecting the father of their offspring. They recognize their species through the particular light pattern.

4. They Defend Themselves Through 'Reflex Bleeding'

Reflect bleeding is also known as "Autohaemorraghing". It is the ejection of blood from the animal's body. This blood usually contains toxic substances. Firefly of genus Photuris ejects droplets of blood that contain a toxic substance called lucibufagins. Larvae usually inject a numbing fluid on their prey to feed on it.

5. Their Flashing Patterns Vary

Fireflies' glowing pattern varies from species to species. Phausis Raticulata– a tiny firefly that is widespread in the southeastern United States and is also known as the 'blue ghosts'. The male fireflies of this species flash and glow in green and pale blue light. Females of the blue ghosts lack wings. The flash pattern of Photinus Brimleyi is a single flash of yellow color and glows every 10 seconds or longer.

The species Photinus Pyralis often flash in the "J" shape pattern in yellow color. The display patterns of the genus Photuris are single white light like a flashbulb. The synchronous firefly Photinus Carolinus displays the yellow light and synchronizes its flash, which is a unique feature of this species.

The mushroom (Omphalotus Nidiformis) also has bioluminescent property. It is poisonous–consumption may lead to severe cramps and vomiting. It is toxic because of the compound 'illudins'.

The lanternfish is a deep-water organism that can glow. It has light-producing photophores in the belly and a headlight as well. The headlight is a nasal organ that produces light.

6. Eggs and Larvas of Fireflies Light Up

The eggs of some and larvae of mostly fireflies emit light. Larvae of almost all species are luminescent. Larvae use their lightning property to warn predators that they may be distasteful. Their egg can be seen glowing dimly in the soil. The intensity of the larval flash becomes high when they are disturbed.

7. Some Adults Don't Eat At All

Some adults don't feed at all in their entire lives. They consume enough nutrients in their larval stage, so can survive without eating in adulthood. This is because they have a short life span which they spend in search of mates. They are carnivorous in the larval stage and eat soft-bodied insects, like worms, slugs, snails, and other larvae. The adults feed on the nectar and pollen of plants. Some adults also eat other fireflies by imitating their flash contour.

8. Femme Fatale Fireflies—a Unique Nickname

Some fireflies have a habit of imitating other bugs' flashes to kill and eat them. The females of the genus Photuris mimic the light pattern of other species. The males fly over to the female for mating purposes but are greeted by predation. That's why these females are often known as" femme fatale fireflies," which is a stock character of a mysterious and beautiful woman.

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9. They Synchronize Their Flashing

You will be surprised to see how hundreds of lightning bugs synchronize themselves. The question that may jump into mind is how they blink together without having a boss bug. They start with irregular blinking. Eventually, they start to synchronize with their closest fireflies. And these fireflies start to synchronize with their other fellows and so on. Scientists believe that out of 2,000 species, synchronization occurs in only 1%.

10. Some Species Are Lanternless

Do you know that some fireflies don't light up? I felt sad when I heard about it. They are diurnal, and there is no purpose in shining in the sun. In America, there are approximately 25 species that don't glow. Diurnal fireflies can't glow as an adult. Genus Ellychnia is a day-flying firefly. They attract mates through chemical signals. They use Pheromones instead of light for sexual communication. Their larvae are bioluminescent and hide in litters and rotting trunks.

11. Winter Fireflies Can Survive in Sub-freezing Temperature

Ellychnia Corrusca or winter dark fireflies–as their name indicates that they can bear the cold as compared to their other fellows. They are diurnal and don't have the capability of glowing in adulthood. They can be seen late in February and March, and are one of the first insects that appear in the spring. They live in decaying trunks and show a tendency to live in colonies because of their good habitat.

12. They Spend Most of Their Life in Larval Stage

The larval stage is the longest period of fireflies' life. They can spend approximately two years in the larval stage. They remain in the soil during the day and crawl around weeds and grasses at night. In damp weather, it can climb up a few inches on stems. They are found under mulch and in moist and loose soil. They are predacious and feed on slugs and snails. Firefly larvae resemble serrated flatworms, and both larvae and wingless females are also known as glowworms.



EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 22, 2021:

Thanks for your visit, Davika. In my childhood, the glowing fireflies were not less than magic.

Blessings and peace!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 22, 2021:

I often saw fire flies when I was a kind. I enjoyed watching it and had no idea of the many fireflies . This hub took me down memory lane about fireflies.

EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 21, 2021:

Nice to see you here, Alicia. Thanks for liking the article.


EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 21, 2021:


Thanks for your visit, Amara. Many of you never saw this magical creature. But must have heard in urdu poetry. Lots of love for you, sis.

EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 21, 2021:

Jodah, you are a poet. And believe me, no one can batter praise the magic of this fascinating creature than a poet. Have you ever used firefly in your poetry? If not, then try once. Here in Pakistan, we often use 'Jugnu' (the Urdu name of fireflies) in Urdu poetry.

EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 21, 2021:


I appreciate your visit, Urwa. How sad it is that you have never seen them. Are you from Pakistan?

EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 21, 2021:

I appreciate your visit, Brenda. And how beautiful they would look in a jar. Thanks for sharing your memory.

Lightning bugs are really a magic of nature.

EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 21, 2021:

Salam, Misbah!

Yes, I have seen them many times. As I have told befor that my hubby gifted me a glass jar with many fireflies in it. That was a magical moment for me.

The place where we live has a lot of trees. Maybe that's why I've seen them so many times in my childhood.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 20, 2021:

Thank you for sharing the information about fireflies. You’ve created a very interesting article.

Amara from Pakistan on April 20, 2021:

Moondont very informative article about fireflies.. I never saw them in real either, but always fascinated by their tiny bulb..

Indeed a wonder of Nature.. Thanks for sharing.. Salam..

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on April 20, 2021:

I enjoyed this article, Moondot. I had no idea there were so many different types of fireflies. I have only ever seen them once in my life and thought that amazing. Thank you for sharing this information.

Iqra from East County on April 20, 2021:

Aww so cute lightning creature, I have always been fascinated by these fireflies. But I never really saw it. Thanks for this sharing. Stay happy :-)

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on April 20, 2021:

When I was a young girl we used to capture them and toss them into the jar making our own flashlight of sorts.

I always thought their was a wee bit of magic in them.

Thanks for all the information.

Misbah Sheikh on April 20, 2021:

Oh we call it Jugnu in Pakistan. Thanks for making me remember of these lightning creatures Moon, I love them but you know in my life, I have never seen them with naked eyes. They were in Pakistan but not in the city areas. Have you ever seen them?

Your article is very informative. Thanks for sharing sister

Blessings to you and your family

EK Jadoon (author) from Abbottabad Pakistan on April 20, 2021:

I appriciate your visit, Bill. I have seen them twice or thrice in my life. Last year, my husband gave me a glass jar filled with fireflies. That was a magical moment for me.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 20, 2021:

This is fascinating information about glow-worms. I've seen them twice, once when I visited our local nuclear power station, where they are abundant (and I was assured the glow was due to them rather than any nuclear substance!), and once in France late one night. It's such an amazing sight.

How complicated these little creatures are! It seems the smaller the beast, the more they have packed inside them!

Thanks for the education.


Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 20, 2021:

I've only seen them once, many years ago as a child on a farm in the state of Iowa, and I thought they were magical. Thanks for the information, I found it fascinating.

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