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If you have ever wondered how and why fireflies, also referred to as lightning bugs, glow ever so elegantly in the summer night, you are certainly not alone. First off, it is important to know some background information on this interesting insect. Fireflies are actually beetles, and not all of them glow! For those that do, they produce the most efficient light in the world. The glow ranges from a yellow, green, or orange color. In order for this flash of light to occur, oxygen is mixed with a pigment called Luciferin. In Southeast Asia, some fireflies are known to sync up their flashes, creating a beautiful display. This can also be seen in early June in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains.

Fireflies create special blinking patterns, specific to each species, to attract mates. The males will usually fly through the air, radiating their light show, while the females wait on the ground until they are impressed with what they see. In turn, they will produce a single flash in sync with that specific male’s pattern. Unfortunately, some female species will mimic the light patterns of another species in order to lure in their males for ingestion.

The light from these fascinating bugs also serves in protecting them from predators. Lucibufagins, a defensive steroid, actually tastes bad to other creatures. The predators will start to associate the flash of the fireflies with the foul taste after a single encounter. It is apparent that fireflies do not glow just for fun, but for their own well being and survival!

 

Source: Pestworld.org “The Science Behind Fireflies”

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