Why do fireflies glow and when do they come out? | The Sun

FIRELFLIES have left humans in awe for thousands of years with the extraordinary light displays they give off at night.

But why do fireflies glow the way they do and when do they come out?

Why do fireflies glow?

The glow from a firefly is in fact the result of a chemical reaction.

This light is caused by the organic compound luciferin which sits in the abdomen of fireflies.

As air travels into the firefly's abdomen it reacts with the compound, creating a stunning yellow glow.

Some experts think the firefly’s glow may off a safety measure by warning predators of their bitter taste.


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That said, many predators like frogs don't mind the taste, and some eat so many fireflies they start glowing.

Fireflies also light up for romance, with males using the glow as light signals to appeal to mates.

While experts say females attract males with flashes of their own.

While females even use their glow for more sinister reasons too – eating males alive.

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They do this by flashing, which attracts a male to their fate.

The glow generates very little heat despite appearing warm.

When do fireflies come out?

In the USA, fireflies come out at during early summer.

This could be anywhere from the third week in May to the third week of June.

Their larvae live underground during winter and then mature during the spring.

And then emerge in glorious displays over the early summer months when night falls.

They are also flying about during the day but their light cannot be seen as easily.

Fireflies live for about two-months before dying, which is just long enough two mate and lay eggs.

Why are fireflies also called lightning bugs?

Fireflies are also known as lightning bugs – they are the same thing.

But the differing terms are simply to do with different regional dialects.

According to research by Cambridge University, the term lightning bug and firefly is widely used interchangeably in the USA – but some areas were more familiar with one than the other.

The university asked 10,000 Americans from around the country: “What do you call the insect that flies around in the summer and has a rear section that glows in the dark?"

Roughly 40 percent of respondents used both terms interchangeably and 30 percent said “firefly".

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The remaining 30 percent said “lightning bug” while “Firefly” was most popular in the western half of the country, while “lightning bug” dominated the Midwest, South, and the Mid-Atlantic.

There are estimated to be over 2000 firefly species living in temperate and tropical zones across the world.

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