Bug Blog

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Fireflies

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Fireflies


            It’s that time of the year again. The days are filled with summer delight and the night is lit up by fireworks. But nothing beats the romance when nature’s own living fireworks are blinking on display. Yes, fireflies are back; and if you can let go of the city lights for a few days and relax somewhere less inundated with artificial lights (Waterville Valley and Franconia Notch are good bets), you may just get to bask under their flickering beauty.

And while you’re admiring them, it may pay to know some facts about fireflies gathered from the National Geographic and  Smithsonian:

  1. Fireflies are neither flies nor bugs. They’re actually a type of beetle. They’re also known as lightning bugs, because of their glowing abdomen.
  2. The light that fireflies produce are called “cold fire”, and considered by scientists to be the most efficient lights in the world. Why are they the most efficient? Because compared to, say, an incandescent light bulb, which produces 90% heat and only 10% light, or a fluorescent light bulb, which produces 10% heat and 90% light, fireflies emit 100% of their energy as light. Also, since 100% of the energy is produced as light, there is no heat emitted; hence, the term “cold fire”.
  3. Fireflies actually use their light as a form of signal messaging. Males are sending out light signs to cruise for and attract a potential mate. If a female is interested, she replies, sending signals for the male to find her.
  4. Fireflies do not bite, sting, or scratch, but they can actually be poisonous. When threatened, they secrete chemicals that can be poisonous to vertebrates.
  5. Some species of fireflies don’t have lights, and some species are bioluminescent in all stages of their lives, from egg to adulthood.
  6. Firefly larvae are carnivorous, and eat snails. Some species of adult fireflies feed on other fireflies. Most other species of adult fireflies feed on nectar or pollen, while some species do not feed at all.

So you see, not all fireflies are alike. Some glow, some do not. They’re relatively safe to touch, but just don’t ingest any of the liquids they squirt. Also, their population is declining, which is largely blamed on too much tourism, as well as destruction of their natural habitat. If you still want you and following generations to be exposed to this natural firework display wonder in the future, join ongoing campaigns and help spread the awareness to keep them safe.