Do you enjoy warm summer evenings? We do! There is nothing better than sitting around a campfire in your backyard while you roast marshmallows for s’mores and search for fireflies.
Fireflies — also commonly known as lightning bugs — are easily visible at night when their lights shine brightly. But where do they go when the Sun rises?
Do they dig underground and wait for nightfall? Perhaps they soak up the sunlight to recharge their lights?
Fireflies do not dig underground. They also do not need sunlight to recharge their lights. So why don’t we see them during the day? Where do they go?
Fireflies are fascinating creatures, and there is still much about them that puzzles scientists.
For instance, fireflies are not actually flies at all. They are beetles! And there are over 2,000 species of fireflies found worldwide. However, not all firefly species glow. In fact, most fireflies west of the Rocky Mountains in the United States do not emit light.
Fireflies glow when oxygen mixes with a pigment called luciferin, an enzyme called luciferase, and a chemical called adenosine triphosphate. This process is called bioluminescence. Fireflies light up at night to attract mates.
Since fireflies are nocturnal insects, they spend most of their daylight hours on the ground among tall grasses. Tall grass helps conceal fireflies during the day, so it is unlikely to spot them unless you are on your hands and knees searching for them.
Another reason why you may not notice fireflies during the day is that they may simply not be present! Fireflies have short life cycles. Adult fireflies only live long enough to mate and lay eggs. Some scientists believe that fireflies may not even need to eat during their adult stage. Firefly larvae typically live about one year (from one mating season to the next) before becoming adults and giving birth to the next generation of fireflies.
So even though you may not see fireflies when the Sun comes up, they are lingering among the tall grasses. If you look for them, you will find them. Of course, if you are like most people, you would rather wait for dusk when they come to life and illuminate their lights for everyone to see!
Give It a Try
Are you ready to discover more about fireflies? Remember to explore the following activities with a friend or family member:
If you had the ability to emit light, what would you do? Would you wait until it’s dark to shine or would you glow brightly all day long? Can you think of any ways to use this glowing ability? Could you use it to communicate? What messages would you convey? Imagine a world where humans can glow and write a short story about what you would do if you could shine brightly at night!
Feeling creative? Did you know you can create a simple homemade lantern by catching fireflies and placing them in a transparent glass jar? However, instead of potentially harming fireflies, you can achieve a similar effect by using glow sticks and glitter. Check out the instructions online at DIY: “Fireflies in a Jar” Night Lamp!
Studying fireflies is a great reason to go outside and explore after dark. The Firefly Watch activity by the Museum of Science offers aspiring entomologists the chance to conduct various research on nature’s nocturnal lights. Share your observations about fireflies in your backyard and assist scientists with their research. Get ready, get set, and let’s glow!