A few years ago, I saw a documentary on TV about fireflies. It was about an hour long, and it was filled with all sorts of science and facts, and it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. But most importantly, it was a picture of fireflies lighting up the night sky. It was so moving, and it was a feeling that stayed with me for weeks. That was the first time I realized that there is so much beauty in the world, if only you looked for it. So I decided to look for it. And since then, I’ve been looking, and I’ve been discovering. Things like how fireflies use their flashes to communicate with each other, or how their glowing wings help them fly,
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As I write this, I’m sitting in a large, open field watching a stunning firefly light up the night sky. In 15 minutes, it will be gone, and so will I. I’m sitting here with no particular purpose, other than to enjoy the light show. It’s a glorious night, and I’m not the only one. People sit outside and look up at the sky listening to the insects singing. Many people try to describe them.
In mid to late June, I enjoy one of nature’s coolest summer spectacles: the nocturnal appearance of fireflies.
The annual appearance of these flying, blinking beetles is a wonder not to be missed. In fact, I start my seasonal watch in early June. This year the first firefly to catch my eye appeared on the 7th. June at 21:36. I watched for another 30 minutes, just because it’s so nice to be in the darkness, and I saw maybe two or three more flashes. But it was a start.
From then on, the number of night numbers slowly increased, a few per night, always a little after 9:30, but always at 9:45 for the first lights. See you on the 15th. Every night in June, I watched an almost uninterrupted light show, and I knew what was coming – a big spike of cold green flashing in my darkened Froggy Bottom. Last summer, at 30. In June, the show was spectacular: Hundreds, if not thousands, were in action, their lights standing out against the wooded stream.
I am fortunate to live in a village that overlooks an uncultivated riverbed that is unsuitable for farming, as this is the best remaining land for the zebra beetles. Their numbers are decreasing due to habitat loss. They are not comfortable on asphalt or concrete, forgive my sarcasm. And the widespread and indiscriminate use of pesticides – everywhere from farmland to golf courses to suburban landscapes – has led to a decline in the population of lightning rods. The third, more subtle but equally powerful enemy is increasing light pollution. Too much artificial light has illuminated our night sky in many places to the point where lightning can no longer respond to its light.
After all, it’s the lightning bolts that enable the lightning rods to attract mating, enable the males to find females and mate. Flashing also deters predators. This cold green light is caused by a chemical reaction in the lower part of their abdomen. When attacked by a predator, fireflies release tiny droplets of blood that contain toxic and unpleasant chemicals. Studies have shown that predators, such as birds, toads and even some spiders, quickly learn to avoid fireflies. It is thought that the bioluminescence of fireflies originally evolved to deter potential predators.
Lightning rods only live for a few weeks when they reach adulthood. After mating and laying eggs, they die. Instead, they spend up to several years as voracious larvae in the soil, where they feed like lions on other insects, snails and earthworms. In their larval state they are called fireflies, which can sometimes be seen buried in the roots of grasses.
It would be a shame if these nightlights were to disappear. They are living creatures whose ancestors go back 100 million years. There are about 2,200 species in the world, some as big as the palm of your hand. There are about 165 known species in the US and Canada. Individual specimens measure between half an inch and a full inch, depending on the species.
One evening last year, I was so impressed with the Peak show that I wrote a little story about fireflies for my grandchildren – or children of any age. It told how, at the beginning of the earth’s existence, stardust fell on the world and, as a result of a magical transformation, fireflies – the stargazers – appeared. The bizarre story goes that the nightly flicker of fireflies is the signal these planetary insects send to the stars. It’s good for young people’s imagination, I thought.
So tonight, take the time to stop and enjoy this peaceful natural spectacle. I’ll look into it with you.
There’s nothing quite like watching a firefly flicker in the dark. It’s magical. They are small, yet they give off a beautiful glow, creating a different sense of beauty when compared to the stars. Their tiny size also makes them a lot harder to spot, especially at night. Fireflies have been known to travel up to a mile to find a mate, giving us a whole new dimension on the meaning of distance.. Read more about firefly gender and let us know what you think.
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