Until last weekend, I had never seen a firefly (except for the television show by Joss Whedon). Geographic location, time of year, weather, all these things had simply not aligned to allow me to experience the magical wonder of a firefly show.
Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are not actually flies or true bugs. They’re actually beetles in the family Lampyridae. This looks like the little critter that I caught over the weekend, as fireworks were flying overhead. In unprepared entomologist fashion, I stuck it in an empty Mentos gum container since I didn’t have a vial. You could see the glow through the plastic even though it wasn’t see through.
The glow, or bioluminescence, is the result of a chemical reaction in the abdomen of the beetle. The color can vary along a spectrum from yellow to green to pale red. Both males and females flash in a call and response type of mate selection. Species specific flash patterns and durations allow females to distinguish their gentlemen callers and respond only to their species. In the case of Photuris species however, females mimic another species response to lure the males as prey. The poor little guys, I’m sure they thought everything was just shiny.