The next time you’re treated to a firefly/lightning bug show this summer, impress/bore the two gals/guys who are sharing your campsite with a little bit of science/common knowledge….

Fireflies are actually beetles who are nocturnal members of the family Lampyridae. There are about 2,000 firefly species who live in a variety of warm environments. Fireflies love moisture and often live in humid regions of Asia and the Americas, and in drier areas, they are found around wet or damp areas that retain moisture.

Fireflies have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. They take in oxygen and, inside special cells, combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat. (Say it a few times so you won’t forget it. Luciferin. Luciferin.)

Firefly light is usually intermittent, and flashes in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is an optical signal that helps fireflies find potential mates. Scientists are not sure how the insects regulate this process to turn their lights on and off.

And there you have it. Bring a jar and go the movies.

MP3: Dolly Parton – Fire That Keeps You Warm


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One Response to Lampyridae

  1. Michael July 6, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Have you listened to the Emergence episode of Radiolab? Pretty great piece on Thai lightening bugs.

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