Lightning Bugs

As a kid growing up in Iowa every summer we would be treated to a nightly light show that would fascinate any child and adults too. Lightning bugs or Fireflies would fill the yard and corn fields with their Morse code flashes. We kept jars on the back porch and when darkness fell we would end our long summer days with a lightning bug round up. We also would smear them all over our hands thinking they would glow too but that never worked. The harmless bug was only trying to attract a mate but we would spend countless hours in amazement and wonder as to how such an amazing creature came to be.

I never understood the firefly and why it glowed and scientist today aren’t exactly sure how they turn on and off their beacons but they do have the chemical combination figured out as to what makes them glow.

The enzyme luciferase acts on luciferin, in the presence of magnesium ions, ATP (adenosene triphosphate), and oxygen to produce light.

www.wikipedia.com

 

Don’t worry, I still have no idea either but what is remarkable is that this light is known as ‘cold light’ and is very efficient. A light bulb in your home can only use 10% of the energy that goes through it to produce light, the rest is turned into heat. A lightning bugs energy is used at 90% to create light.

Even the larva glow and are sometimes referred to as ‘glow worms.’ They usually live in the soil or under bark and will hunt down snails and worms for food. Adults are thought to be nectar feeders for the most part but their mouth parts indicate they too can be predacious. Females that have already mated will sometimes flash signals to a would be male suitor only to lure him in where she will kill and eat him.

Not all fireflies glow but all known larva do. The adults may live up to 3 months and soon after mating the female will lay her eggs in the soil or under some loose bark. The eggs hatch in 3 to 4 weeks and the larva will feed until the end of summer. The larva ‘over winter’ by burrowing in the ground or under bark and emerge in the spring. The larva will feed for a few weeks and then pupate which lasts about 2 weeks. Emerging as adults they begin the process over again.

In my area there aren’t many lightning bugs at night but that does not mean we do not have them. Some lightning bugs are diurnal (active in the day) so they do not produce the glow that so many of us associate with fireflies. Fortunately we do have a few and although I don’t keep a jar on the back porch I still marvel every time I see the glow and think back to my childhood days.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • Great post, I enjoyed reading it. Interesting that the chemical name stems from “lucifer” — I wonder how that came about….

  • Great post, I enjoyed reading it. Interesting that the chemical name stems from “lucifer” — I wonder how that came about….

  • admin

    I didn’t notice that until you said something. I do know of the reference where Jesus saw ‘Lucifer’ descending as lightning when his disciples were kicking butt and taking names. He had to hurry and get back to the front lines I guess because his side was taking a beating. Luke 10:18

    Coincidence????

    Hey I checked out you blog, http://www.afewgoodpens.com/ real nice. Talk about some work. So for you to compliment mine is a real honor. Thank You.

    Thanks for reading
    The Bug Doctor

  • Taylor & Melinda :)

    Lightning Bugs are pretty. That’s gross that you would smear them over your hands though. You’re a meanie to Lightning Bugs. :/

  • Taylor & Melinda :)

    Lightning Bugs are pretty. That’s gross that you would smear them over your hands though. You’re a meanie to Lightning Bugs. :/

  • The Bug Doctor

    Taylor & Melinda,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to read my article & you are right!
    Lightning bugs are very pretty and I should have never smeared them on my hands but I made a mistake.

    I have never done it again since I was little & I would tell anyone else not too as well. I hope you forgive me.

    Keep reading and learning, you sound like a great friend to the insects & I bet they are glad you are.

    The Bug Doctor

  • The Bug Doctor

    Taylor & Melinda,
    Thanks so much for taking the time to read my article & you are right!
    Lightning bugs are very pretty and I should have never smeared them on my hands but I made a mistake.

    I have never done it again since I was little & I would tell anyone else not too as well. I hope you forgive me.

    Keep reading and learning, you sound like a great friend to the insects & I bet they are glad you are.

    The Bug Doctor

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  • Mii3suns

    Why do I have lightning bugs in my home? How are they getting in?

  • Lightning bugs inside isn’t to common– Check for loose screens or gaps I’d say

  • Kristie Oneill

    Why do I have have so many lighting bugs in my house they all were normal size now it’s seems that maybe they lauded eggs in my house because I found about 20 tiny ones last night

  • Not sure–the eggs even if hatched in your home (highly unlikely) wouldn’t hatch this quick. Sounds like a door or window was open to me.

  • Patricia Marie Mitchell

    Are these lightning bugs all over my kitchen? They look like lightning bugs with no light!

  • Jackie Belmonte Jacobs

    I live in South Florida. last night when walking the dog I heard a buzzing noise above my head similar to the sound of a cricket. It also sounded like an electric spark. I looked up and there was bright light that lasted a few seconds. The light was longer in duration and in length than the lightning bugs that i remember when growing up in NY. In fact, initially, I thought it was an electrical spark in the wires, but there were no wires near it. It was the sound that made me look up. The bug was was perched on a tree. After the long spark, it died down to just a small glow and then the light dissappeared. It was definately a large bug, but i couldnt see it after the light was gone. Any idea what it could be? Your second photo may be it.

  • Cool–Hard to know but this came to mind…http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/beetles/glow-worms.htm

  • Not all lightning bugs ‘light up’ I don’t believe thats one there… perhaps a soldier beetle…but not sure.

  • Patricia Marie Mitchell

    Thank you 🙂 I couln’t catch the color with my phone but I found them on Bing and yes, they are lightning bugs with the thin yellowish border around their wings. They lasted about a week. We had to vacuume them off the ceiling because they were covering it and flying all over. We used a hand held vac and put them back outside. What happened to their light is still a mystery, but actually, none of them are lighting up yet out there; it’s the middle of June.
    Maybe we had some kind of LED going on in here that was calling them. Don’t know.