Firefly FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions About Fireflies
Presented by Terry Lynch
Artist, Poet, Philosopher and Naturalist

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All proceeds will be used by Project Firefly to support this site and help preserve, protect and save fireflies around the world that our children's children may still be able to see magnificent displays of fireflies.

Please support Project Firefly. We are asking everyone to please help save the firefly. Magnificent and spectacular displays of fireflies are disappearing around the world. In and around many cities where fireflies were once very abundant they occur sparsely or have disappeared altogether. Indeed, it is becoming more and more difficult to see the large displays of fireflies that our parents and grandparents may have witnessed.

When fireflies disappear it is a signal that something is very wrong, an indicator that the quality of the air, water and environment is in jeopardy. Much work needs to be done to study the effects of global warming and urbanization upon the environment and how it is effecting firefly populations and other species which are becoming endangered or threatened.

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List of Questions

Over the years I have received many inquiries about fireflies from people all over the world. Here are a few of the most common questions I have been asked along with some of the replies I have made in my efforts to help educate and inform the public about fireflies.

  1. Is this a firefly or what?

  2. What are fireflies?

  3. How many types of fireflies are there?

  4. Where can I get or buy fireflies?

  5. Can I import some fireflies from America?

  6. Do firefly eggs glow?

  7. What does a "baby" firefly look like?

  8. What is a glowworm and how can I rear them?

  9. Who are the world/national authorities on fireflies?

  10. How can I identify fireflies?

  11. What are the most common types of fireflies?

  12. What is the difference between Photinus and Photuris?

  13. Can fireflies be distinguished, one species from another, by their flash patterns?

  14. What is a Pyractomena?

  15. Common vs. scientific names: What is the difference between "red" and "green" fireflies?

  16. Why do fireflies flash?

  17. What is meant by the synchronous flashing of fireflies?

  18. Do fireflies have sex with more than one mate?

  19. How long do fireflies live?

  20. What do fireflies eat?

  21. How high do fireflies fly?

  22. How do you photograph fireflies?

  23. How do I collect and submit firefly specimens?

  24. Can you make some photomicrographs for a publication I am working on?

  25. Where can I send my questions about fireflies?

  26. Are there fireflies in California, Oregon or Washington State? Do fireflies occur in the Rocky Mountains?

  27. What are those strobe lights hovering above the horizon: UFO's and other sightings?

  28. Where can I get more information about fireflies and your research?

  29. I love fireflies. Where can I get gifts and apparel to express my passion and help make people more aware of fireflies?

  30. Why do you study and rear fireflies and how can I support your work?

  31. What are the risks and dangers associated with studying fireflies at night; what weapons should a naturalist carry in urban, rural or wilderness areas?

  32. Where have all the fireflies gone? Visit Firefly Romance, to discuss firefly or insect behavior related issues. Make comments and ask questions. You can also send your questions to Terry. Note: Any questions, email, photographs or other material sent may be reprinted or published, especially if it may have educational or informative value, or be amusing or interesting in some manner. Do NOT send any content you do not wish reprinted, broadcasts upon the Internet, published, or used as maybe one day it may show up on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or somewhere else on the Internet. Consider any email or other content sent or comments posted to be in a public forum.

  33. Why are firefly sightings low in Alabama and Mississippi

  34. What is Project Firefly and how can I contribute to this important project?


    How to collect and submit specimens

  1. Is this a firefly or what? People are always asking me, "What type of bug is this; is it a firefly or what?" If you have an unknown insect and you want to know if it is a firefly, please collect up to 24 specimens in 70% isopropyl alcohol and send them to me to examine and photograph.

    You may send firefly and other small insect specimens (including spiders) to me to photograph. I accept only specimens that are preserved in 70% alcohol. If I use a photograph of a specimen you send, you will get credit as the collector.

    I am primarily interested in receiving firefly specimens from throughout North America. Next I would like to receive ant specimens or other small insects and spiders. You should collect up to 24 specimens per small vial and label them in pencil with name of collector, address, date collected, city, state or province, and country. If specimens were collected upon a plant please indicate the name of the plant if this is known.

    I recommend using small, high quality specimen vials like the ones shown in the photograph below.

    Insect specimens in small vials

    Insects specimens in small vials containing 70% isopropyl alcohol.

    If you need a few of these please let me know and I'll send you an Insect Collection Kit which includes up to three vials. You may order these using the PayPal button below.

    Insect Collection Kit

    After you collect small insects, be sure to label specimens in pencil with name of collector, address, date collected, city, state or province and country. Send them to the address below:

    Terry Lynch, Naturalist
    120 Anderson Street
    Quitman, MS 39355

    You can also send $15.00 cash or check payable to Terry Lynch for an Insect Collection Kit. If you collect fireflies or other insects prior to receiving your Insect Collection Kit, preserve them in 70% isopropyl alcohol immediately; then transfer them to the small vials when they arrive and send them back to me. I use specimens to study and photograph and will give credit to any collectors if photographs are later published.

  2. What are fireflies? Fireflies are not flies at all but beetles of the family Lampyridae. Generally fireflies exhibit bioluminescence, but their are species of fireflies which do not in their adult forms glow and are characterizes as fireflies because of their physical structure even though they lack lanterns.

    Firefly struggles to upright itself. Fireflies, like all Coleoptera, are complex organisms. Often the casual observer marveling at fireflies flashing in a wooded area or meadow may fail to grasp the complexity of the insects being observed. These are creatures which have a very well developed nervous system: they can see, smell, taste, feel vibrations, fly and produce light. Shown here is a firefly inside a Petri dish which slipped on the glass and became stuck in exuded body fluid. The firefly struggles to upright itself, wiggling its legs and twisting its abdomen. One might wonder, does the firefly have a keen sense of balance or does it simply respond in this manner when its tarsi are not in contact with a surface? Like a fly, a firefly can walk upside down under a leaf or twig; its tarsi are equipped with large claws and pads; if it falls it may try to spread its wings and fly if the distance to the ground is great enough to allow time for flight. Hence when a firefly or many other beetles are upside down they do not sense contact with a surface and respond by wiggling their legs, twisting their abdomens, or by trying to open their wing covers to right themselves. The claws and pads upon the tarsi enable the firefly to climb upon slippery surfaces; this particular firefly was stressed and agitated by taking it from a dark, air conditioned room during mid-day into bright sunlight. Adult fireflies are nocturnal and generally spend daylight hours resting in cool, shaded areas. When stressed by plunging it from a cool, dark location into bright sunlight, the firefly ran about apparently trying to escape from exposure to the sunlight, its body rapidly becoming moist with clear exudate. When the firefly tried to crawl upside down upon the Petri dish lid it lost its balance and became stuck in the moisture of body fluids that it had exuded. Normally fireflies can crawl on glass easily without falling. After taking this photograph I returned the firefly to the cool protection of an indoor habitat, placed it in water to bring it to a normal temperature, and then set it inside a vial to recover. The exoskeletons of fireflies are coated with wax so that they do not easily wet but in this case the stressed firefly exuded clear fluid and became stuck upside down unable to easily right itself. The waxy coating on fireflies will normally protect them and keep them afloat should they fall into water. Photo Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

  3. How many types of fireflies are there? In North America (north of Mexico) there are about 170 species of fireflies; this number increases to about 200 species of Lampyridae for all of North America.

    Click on pic to go shopping for firefly gifts and apparel
    Firefly resting upon a rose leaf. Prior to their twilight mating flights fireflies may be seen resting upon foliage and vegetation. Here a male firefly is seen resting upon the leaf of a wild rose with its antenna and head in a down position. Prior to flight the male will raise its antenna, vibrating them as it walks about, pausing, walking and pausing again, with its antenna and head raised high. If the firefly sees another male flash it may be stimulated to begin its mating flight immediately such that groups of male fireflies thus judge and determine collectively when conditions are exactly right to take flight and begin searching for a female. Photo by Terry Lynch.

    World wide there are over 1,900 species of fireflies. I'm not sure what the latest count is as this certainly changes every time someone discovers a new species of firefly and I'm not the one to whom this is reported. It is probably true that no one really knows exactly how many species of fireflies there may be as some species can only be distinguished if you observe and record the flash patterns exhibited during courtship . Worldwide this has only been done for a relatively few species of fireflies. Species which may appear to structurally be identical may prove to be uniquely different when the flash patterns they exhibit during courtship are analyzed.

  4. Where can I get or buy fireflies? In the eastern United States you may find fireflies during the late spring or summer when adult males are active at twilight or during the evening, flashing and blinking as they search for and court females. Fireflies are easily to collect with an insect net; then place them in a jar, Petri dish or other vial with a moist piece of paper towel or filter paper for observation.

    PHOTO Photuris sp. female is Petri dish. This female was captured on a warm, humid evening in early June in southeastern Mississippi by blinking a pen light every three seconds. The female was attracted to this flash pattern which was observed being exhibited by other male fireflies in the area.

    Because fireflies are easily collected in the field, please do not ask me if you can buy them from me. Learn how to observe, collect and study fireflies for yourself and this will bring many hours of enjoyment.

    Outlaw Bounties On Fireflies
    Adopt laws to preserve and protect firefly trees and habitats

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    Save the firefly. Preserve, Protect & Maintain Firefly Safe Zones

    Save the firefly

    Do NOT ask me to sell you fireflies or refer you to someone else who markets fireflies. I do NOT advocate the collection and marketing of fireflies! Nor should anyone try to import fireflies from one state or nation to another. Nor do I advocate that the novice should attempt to introduce or establish firefly populations from one local to another. The species of fireflies which occur naturally in one location are generally very specific to that area and the novice should not play God and try to introduce fireflies to their backyard garden, park or preserve.

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    Save the firefly. Stop Raping Mother Nature!

    The recommended strategy with respect to establishing, reintroducing and/or maintaining firefly populations is to create habitats that are good for fireflies. This means to not disturb soil, to not use insecticides, herbicides or poisonous chemicals in areas where one wishes firefly larvae to not be exterminated, to reduce light pollution and not use bug zappers outdoors, to plant trees, and to maintain healthy soil rich in organic material that populations of earthworms, snails and other soft bodied animals will be encourages. Fireflies of the correct species will come into areas from surrounding regions unless there are conditions such as paranoid over spraying for mosquitos, extreme light pollution, or asphalting of large acreage which contribute to the total eradication of firefly populations as well and the whole sale slaughter of many beneficial insects.

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    Save the firefly. No Bug Bounties!

    It is strongly advocated that fireflies be regarded as a national treasure, that countries which have species which occur upon "firefly trees" as in Southeast Asia, adopt laws to designate said trees as protected, given they represent a national treasure; that firefly preserves and sanctuaries be established to preserve and protect fireflies, especially in areas where fireflies occur in large numbers in forests or upon trees and exhibit synchronous flashing displays; that the commercial harvest of fireflies be outlawed in all nations and that the trade and/or dealing in commercial products obtained from fireflies be made illegal and result in serious consequences, as fine and/or imprisonment for anyone engaged in the commercial exploitation of fireflies in preserved areas.

    Because there is at least one company which offers a bounty upon fireflies, it is imperative that local and international laws be adopted to preserve and protect firefly populations. Harvesting fireflies from nature is a practice which contributes to the destruction of the environment and species endangerment and should be shunned upon and outlawed. Companies which wish to utilize fireflies should foster the responsible mass rearing of fireflies and provide grants and support research related to the study and preservation of fireflies. To engage in the irresponsible rape and plunder of fireflies by offering a bounty of $0.01 upon the head of every firefly, as has been done by Sigma-Aldrich, formerly Sigma Chemical Co., is a form of environmental exploitation similar to that which has been done with respect to the beaver, whale, bison and numerous other species -- that has contributed to the extinction of species in the past.

    It is vital that laws to protect fireflies and their habitats as national treasures be adopted in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines, and other nations where synchronous flashing displays occur. Otherwise populations are threatened and endangered by any company which offers a bounty upon the head of fireflies. These are not charities; they are for profit companies which rich owners and stock holders engaged in the rape, plunder and exploitation of the environment, taking advantage of the fact that developing nations often have no effective laws to protect their national treasures.

    It is therefore vital that nations, states and local municipalities adopt laws to prohibit the commercial exploitation of fireflies; that this also be extended to other species such that it be illegal to offer a bounty upon any animal or plant; that harvesting from nature be permitted only with a license such that the process may be properly regulated and managed by wildlife experts, as is done with hunting and fishing. Unless this is done with fireflies and other animals and plants, the result is the more rapid extinction of species as the world population explodes and poor people are encouraged to exploit national treasures by big companies offering bounties on everything from fireflies to chimpanzees!

    I strongly recommend that national and international laws be adopted to outlaw the practice of offering a bounty upon any animal or plant, especially upon fireflies! Only responsible wildlife management programs should be permitted to use bounties to eradicate animals due to over population or pest type infections as occur when a species not common to an area is introduced and results in hurting and harming the environment. The offering of bounties by large chemical companies and industries should be prohibited by law as this practice encourages the unregulated exploitation of the environment.

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    Save the firefly. No Over Spraying!

    It simply is a VERY BAD IDEA to offer a bounty upon fireflies or any animal or plant. Bounties upon animals and plants by private companies should be outlawed! Anyone wishing to help preserve and protect fireflies is encouraged to support this site. Please visit the Firefly Gallery. Buy firefly art and design products, not desiccated firefly bodies, extracts or chemicals!

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    Save the Firefly! No Logging! Save the Forest!

    Clear cutting, over logging, over spraying of insecticides and urbanization are also major factors causing the vanishing of firefly populations. Fireflies are rapidly becoming an endangered species in many parts of the world. Please help promote effort to stop the senseless and insane practice of over logging and clear cutting! We also need to invest in replanting trees especially in areas where they have been slashed and burned! The fireflies will thank you -- as will your children who see them flashing in the summer night!

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    Save the firefly. No Over Logging! No Clear Cutting! No Slash & Burn!

    Help support Project Firefly. Please make a donation of any amount today! Thank you!

  5. Can I import some fireflies from America? I repeat, I do NOT advocate the export or import of fireflies from one country to another. When a person from Singapore wrote me in this same regard I replied as below:

    Do NOT export/import live insects!

    Do I understand correctly that you live in Singapore, Malaysia, and that you want to import living fireflies from America? This would be very unwise! Asian fireflies which occur in mangrove areas are an entirely different and unique species from those common in the United States.

    You should not try to introduce fireflies from the United States to any other countries. The only justification for introducing fireflies to an area would be if local populations have disappeared due to environmental factors and someone wants to try to reestablish them using native species from surrounding areas. However, even in this case the best action is to make the environment suitable for healthy firefly populations and let them introduce themselves by diffusing or migrating into a restored area, as when land is reclaimed from a strip mine operation.

    Tropical species of fireflies native to Asia are very different from many varieties which occur in the United States and Europe. Not only do species from different areas live in different habitats and eat different food, but they may be host to a whole different range of associated organisms in their digestive tracts. This includes everything from nematodes to soil bacteria.

    If you are interested in dead specimens of fireflies or firefly larvae preserved in alcohol for research and study, that is one thing. But it is entirely different to seek live specimens of fireflies native to America to introduce into an area in Asia. This would be potentially damaging to the environment and probably be prohibited by law.

    You should be able to easily find native species of fireflies in mangrove areas in the country outside of Singapore. It is my understanding they occur along river banks and in wetland areas and can occur quite abundantly. Their larvae probably feed upon aquatic snails and would certainly be interesting for you to study and attempt to rear.

    I repeat, the species of firefly you will find native to your area are an entirely different species than occur in the United States and Europe. Therefore you would be making a very wise decision to concentrate your efforts on studying native species. Should you be able to do this I might be able to help you in suggesting how you may rear them and would like to see any photographs you may take of areas where they occur, as well as macro photographs of the fireflies themselves.

  6. What does a "baby" firefly look like?

    Immature fireflies are called larvae and live in the ground prior to pupation and metamorphosis when they transform into adult beetles. Shown below is a Photinus pyralis larvae which has just emerged from its egg.

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    Figure 1. Photinus pyralis I-instar larva is almost translucent when it first emerges from its egg case. This affords an excellent opportunity to photograph the young larvae and observe internal structures. To see more photographs visit the Firefly Gallery.

  7. What is a glowworm and how can I rear them? Webster's dictionary defined "glowworm" as, "the larva or wingless female of a beetle, Lampyris noctiluca, which emits a sustained greenish light." This is in reference to a species of European firefly or its larva. In the United States the term glowworm is used loosely as the common name for firefly larvae. Fireflies and their larvae occur throughout much of the United States east of the Mississippi River. Although there are about 170 species of fireflies in North America north of Mexico, and 23 genera, those I am most familiar with are Photuris, Photinus and Pyractomena.

    Photuris larvae grow rather large and forage for food (dead insects, worms, snails, etc.) in leaf litter. Sometimes they can be quite abundant. Photinus larvae tend to burrow into the grown and can often be found by raking through leaf litter on a dark night. Pyractomena occur in wetland areas and may be found upon clinging to vegetation.

    You can collect firefly larvae and feed them sections of earthworms. Some people have also been able to rear Photuris larvae on kibbles of moist dog food. Pyractomena generally have been observed to eat aquatic snails. When provided with food and soil Photuris and Photinus larvae will pupate in the spring or early summer, building little chambers or igloos, then emerging as adult fireflies. Pyractomena larvae cling to trees or vegetation and pupate hanging upside down.

    You should be able to find firefly larvae active on warm evenings, especially after a gentle rain. Fall or early summer is a good time to hunt for firefly larvae as they are large enough to easily find among leaf litter. In some wetland areas they may be very abundant and quite easy to collect. In other areas they may be less common. Should you discover these glowing wonders around your home and find them of interest, I encourage you to collect them and learn about them through observation.

    You can keep firefly larvae alive in small half-pint jars of moist sterile soil feeding them regularly. I have found a 1:1 mixture of moist peat moss and aquarium grade activated charcoal works well as a rearing substrate. To keep the soil in jars from drying out, I suggest using an air tight cooler or refrigerator as a storage cabinet.

    It is important to handle firefly larvae very gently, using a soft camel's hair brush to collect them and be careful not to mash them as they can be easily injured. Also Photuris larvae can be aggressive and fight and eat each other, so you need to keep only one per jar. If well fed you can keep more than one larvae per jar but then you run the risk of them trying to eat each other. I've often seen Photuris larvae compete for food, having little battles over bits and pieces of flesh. When you have firefly larvae of different ages and sizes mixed together you very likely will end up with only one big larva, the larger larva eating the smaller larvae.

    In New Zealand there is a variety of gnat, Arachnocampa luminosa which exhibits bioluminescence and is also referred to as a glowworm. The larvae of these gnats capture insects in slimy threads of silk which they dangle from the roofs of caves.

    In England female fireflies do not have wings and so are commonly observed upon the ground and have thus been referred to as glowworms. However, these are not worms any more than a fly maggot is a worm. Although Shakespeare may have said, "A rose by any other name is the same," this is not true of worms when, in fact, one is referring to the immature forms of insects. A maggot "worm" will metamorphous into a fly whereas a "glowworm" will turn into a luminescent beetle, two vastly different creatures, indeed!

    Therefore depending upon what part of the world you live in, the term "glowworm" may refer to different species of insects.

  8. Do firefly eggs glow? Yes, firefly eggs certainly do glow. One of the most memorable observations I made as a young naturalist was to collect several score of firefly eggs and put them in a Petri dish. This was left undisturbed for several weeks. Then prior to the eggs hatching I observed them in total darkness, tapping upon the Petri dish to produce vibrations. In response the developing larvae inside the dimly glowing eggs flashed brightly!

    This is an observation which can be easily repeated. Simply collect adult female P. pyralis fireflies. Let them deposit eggs in moist, sterile soil. Then after about two weeks collect the eggs using a small red sable paint brush. Place the eggs upon a piece of filter paper or in a container of moist soil that they are concentrated together. Then set the vial of eggs in a dark room undisturbed. After about 24 hours enter the room, allow your eyes to adjust to the dark for 3 to 5 minutes, and then observe the vial of firefly eggs by gently tapping it to produce vibrations. The young larvae inside the eggs will respond by flashing brightly and then dimming.

    Photinus pyralis eggs in cluster 80X
    Photinus pyralis eggs in cluster

    Eggs of Photinus pyralis are bioluminescent. This can be observed by collecting eggs and placing them in a Petri dish in a darkened room or closet. Let the eggs set undisturbed for 24 hours. Then enter the darkened room and let your eyes adjust to the dark for about 5 minutes. Then gently tap the Petri dish to cause vibrations. The eggs should glow. This is rather spectacular if done several days before larvae are due to hatch as each larvae inside the eggs have tiny lanterns which will light up. This photograph of a cluster of eggs was photo enhanced to simulate how eggs of P. pyralis appear when they glow. The photographer has actually collected and observed large numbers of firefly eggs glowing, but this is a challenge to photograph given the low sensitivity of film or digital cameras.

  9. Who are the world/national authorities on fireflies? There are several entomologists, professional and amateur, who have expertise in the studies of fireflies.

    As an amateur entomologist, Terry Lynch, author of this site, has studied primarily Photinus pyralis, their adults and larvae, and developed rearing techniques for this species of firefly. Lynch has also produced and authored a number of web sites related to fireflies (see Original Reports by T. A. Lynch) and is noted for his photomicrographs of firefly larvae and artistic photomicrographs of other organisms.

    Dr. James E. Lloyd at the IFAS, Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida, is an authority on North American fireflies. Dr. Lloyd has not only studied the courtship and other behaviors of numerous fireflies, but he is a taxonomist who has assembled an outstanding collection of North American fireflies. I had the good fortune of meeting Dr. Lloyd and working in his department. Also I audited and aced the Introductory to Entomology 101 course he taught.

    Dr. John Bonner Buck who formerly worked at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, has published a number of articles related to the synchronous flashing of fireflies. I met him while I was still a teenager and showed him articles I had written, telling him about my studies and how I had observed that Photinus pyralis exhibits two distinctive preflight behaviors, a rest position and an alert position. Later Dr. Buck confirmed my observations and described these same preflight behaviors for another species of firefly, this being published in Scientific American magazine, quite an honor for me, even if my name was not mentioned. It was Dr. Buck who also showed me my first live specimens of railroad worms which an associated had sent to him. Photographs of these same railroad worms also appeared in Scientific American magazine. I since became very good at collecting both firefly larvae and phengodes larvae in the field, and even learned how to rear firefly larvae, which has enable me to peek, probe and pry into their private lives, coming to learn many of their secretes first hand. Dr. Buck died March 30, 2005 at the age of 92 as a result of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

    Another person who has contributed to the knowledge of fireflies is H. S. Barber of the United States National Museum. Dr. Barber studied Photuris in the Potomac Valley and was able to distinguish eighteen species by their flash patters! Unfortunately Dr. Barber died before I was able to make his acquaintance; however, the first Photuris I ever captured and collected eggs and larvae from was one of the varieties which occur in the Potomac Valley.

  10. How can I identify fireflies? The identification of fireflies is based upon a close examination of their morphology and courtship flash patterns. In North America there are a number of species of fireflies which can be identified by taking care to observe and record their flash pattern during courtship. However, for accurate determination of many species of fireflies one must consult Firefly Keys. Using the information referenced on the Firefly Keys site, one may determine the species of Photinus fireflies by dissecting the genitalia of male fireflies and comparing the morphology of the male aedeagus (copulatory organ) to that of known and referenced species. The flash patters of many Photuris species are also shown; however, one may need to accurately record courtship flash patterns with a sensitive electronic detector and recording device, then compare displays with those on record for known and referenced species of Photuris. Dr. James E. Lloyd is an expert and a taxonomist with special expertise in the study of Lampyridae who has identified over 14,000 specimens, including fireflies, for museums and collections. Dr. Lloyd's pioneering work is referenced on Firefly Keys and demonstrates how to identify many species of fireflies by carefully recording their flash patterns. Also the work of J. W. Green is referenced which may be used to identify Photinus fireflies in North America via the morphology of their aedeagi. Learning to identify fireflies is a challenge to aspiring entomologists and students of insect behavior. You will need a good dissecting microscope and some cleverly crafted electronic devices to accurately determine the species of fireflies you may observe and collect. This might make a great science project. Firefly specimens may be submitted to Dr. Firefly. Specimens of fireflies from North America and around the world are needed and will be used to make new Firefly Keys to help everyone in the identification of fireflies. If the fireflies you submit are used, you will be given full credit as the collector.

  11. What are the most common types of fireflies? In North America the most common types of fireflies belong to one of several genera: Photinus, Photuris or Pyractomena. There are other beetles which exhibit bioluminescence. Among these are the fire beetle, a variety of click beetle, and the most spectacular Phengodes, which as a larvae has eleven pairs of lights along its sides. In South American there is a variety of Phengodes which has two red lights on its head and is called a "railroad worm" due to the fact two red head lights followed by eleven pairs of green lights evokes the idea of a train.

  12. What is the difference between Photinus and Photuris? Actually Photinus males sometimes have difficulty distinguishing females of their own species from Photuris femmes fatales which mimic the blink response of Photinus females. When the male Photinus lands near Photuris it is pounced upon and eaten! So don't be too flustered if you have difficulty distinguishing one firefly from another, even fireflies have this problem!

    Seriously, though, it is relatively easy to learn to recognize fireflies of different types as many have flash patterns which are easy to distinguish. Review of field guide descriptions, photographs and taxonomic keys may help you learn how to recognize different types of fireflies. The explosive growth of the Internet now makes it possible to easily find photographs of many different species of fireflies from all around the world. The commercialization of fireflies has resulted in products and services being named after fireflies, which confuses search results. Therefore if one is looking for photographs of REAL FIREFLIES, better results may be obtained by searching for genus or genus-species names such as Photinus pyralis or Photuris.

    PHOTO Photuris sp. clinging upside down to lid of glass Petri dish. Fireflies are very agile creatures and can easily walk upon a slippery glass surface as demonstrated here by Photuris which is clinging to the glass lid of a Petri dish. This particular firefly had no difficulty walking upside down upon the glass lid of the Petri dish. Notice also that this species of Photuris has two hooked tarsi claws on each leg. These hooked claws are not only useful for grabbing and holding upon vegetation, but they enable Photuris to grapple males of Photinus which are lured by mimicking the flash response of female Photinus. Photuris is the raptor of fireflies, the great deceiver, the seductress which lures male Photinus, pouncing upon them, grabbing them with their hooked clawed tarsi, biting off their heads, then devouring them. After the feast a female Photuris may spend a number of days laying eggs in moist soil to begin a new generation of predacious fireflies.

    Figure 3 shows a photograph of Photinus pyralis. This is a rather large (10-14mm), common species of firefly which occurs east of the Rocky Mountains. The males have a dancing "J" pattern flight, flashing about each 4-5 seconds, pausing after each flash and hovering to look for the female response which occurs about 2 seconds later.

    One of the distinguishing characteristics between Photinus and Photuris is that Photinus has a milky, white blood while Photuris has a clear blood. Often Photuris is a "humped back" firefly; the adults having a distinctive arched body in contrast to Photinus which has a flat body (See Figure 2). Photuris often may be seen flashing in rapid succession, especially when alarmed or captured, and has the ability to mimic the flash response of a number of different species of Photinus. The drawing below may help you distinguish Photuris from Photinus (aka Photinid).

    Click to contact the author/photographer

    Figure 2. Sketch of Photuris vs. Photinid

    Note that in the case of Photinus pyralis it also has a very distinctive "J" flight pattern and produces a greenish-yellow light. Its head is completely covered by the pronotrum. A similar Photuris pennsylvanicus resembles P. pyralis; however, the head of Photuris pennsylvanicus extends out in front of the pronotrum and also it has clear blood, not milky blood like P. pyralis. These are only a very few examples of easily distinguished fireflies. To identify many species of fireflies you need to carefully record their flash pattern or refer to keys which describe details of their fine body structure.

  13. Can fireflies be distinguished from their flash patterns? Yes, if you carefully observe fireflies you can learn to recognize a number of species by their flash patterns. This is especially true for the genus Photinus.

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    Photinus Flash Patterns. Digitally enhanced photo by Terry Lynch showing flash patterns based upon James E. Lloyd's study of Photinus fireflies

    The graphic above shows the flight and flash patterns of six different species of male fireflies of the genus Photinus. The males fly about in search of females on the ground on perched upon vegetation. The males each flash in a pattern characteristic of their species and the females respond after a set interval and in a manner that identifies them as proper mates. Firefly "A" is a high flier, soaring two to four yards above the ground, producing three slow flashes in a series. Firefly "B" flies in a slightly lower, straight path emitting single flashes that increase in intensity during emission. Firefly "C" flies is a low flier and emits long flashes while executing a lateral curve. Firefly No. "D" flies close to the ground in a hopping flight pattern, hovering and emitting a quick flash. Firefly No. "E" flies low, close to the ground making a long flash while it jerks its abdomen rapidly from side to side. Firefly No. "F" is Photinus pyralis, a very common species of large firefly which makes a "J" curve when it flashes, hovering at the end of each flash to observe for a female response. (Adapted from original illustration by Daniel Otte. "In Defense of Magic" Life on a Little Known Planet. Howard Ensign Evans. 1966, 1968, 1993. p.110)

    These represent only a few easily recognized species specific flash patterns of North American fireflies. Some varieties of fireflies, like Photuris, may look very similar to the naked eye, yet have flash patterns which when recorded and analyzed show that they are, in fact, unique species. It can be a fun and challenging endeavor to learn to recognize different fireflies by their flash patterns.

    Fireflies Are My Friends. This adorable and educational design shows the flight patterns of different species of fireflies and gives them the names or real people to help promote the preservation and protection of firefly habitats.

    Because firefly habitats are being destroyed at alarming rates, wetlands being drained to build resorts, forested areas being clear cut and burned, the virgin rain forests being raped and plundered for profit, it is vital that people be made aware of how greedy industrialist are destroying the environment. Hence I took the above firefly flight pattern design and gave fireflies the names of real people to make an emotional appeal for the preservation and protection of firefly habitats. Please buy these gifts and apparel and help the Go Green campaign to recycle, conserve and protect our natural resources, wildlife and the environment that tomorrow there will still be fireflies to grace our lives and to show our children

  14. What is a Pyractomena? This is a variety of firefly that is most commonly found in wetland areas, around lakes and rivers. Pyractomena larvae are quite often observed climbing upon tree limbs and branches or other vegetation. They pupate by securing themselves to vegetation and hanging upside down while they undergo metamorphosis. The larvae of Pyractomena feed upon aquatic snails. To the novice adult Pyractomena may resemble Photinus, however, there are structural differences and certainly the courtship flash of each species of firefly is unique.

  15. Common vs. scientific names: What is the difference between "red" and "green" fireflies? I was actually asked this question to which I replied:

    Use scientific names when referring to fireflies

    You should always refer to fireflies and other insects by using their scientific or genus-species names.

    To ask, what is a green lightning bug and how does it differ from a red one, you might as well ask what is the difference between a green and a red piece of paper. I'm sure you know the answer to that. One is green and one is red owing to the wavelengths of light each reflects and how these are perceived by the human eye.

    With respect to fireflies and insects in general many people in different parts of the world have innumerable common names for them. But scientist do not use the common names for insects or for fireflies when making studies. Scientists use the scientific name, or the genus-species name. With regard to insects, species are generally determined by a physical description and keys are used to determine to which genus-species an insect or firefly belongs. The exception to this is when two fireflies look identical physically yet have been determined to use different flash patterns and response behavior in their mating so as to distinguish them as unique species.

    So I suggest that when you are talking about fireflies, especially if you are attempting to study their behavior, that you use the scientific name for the genus-species of firefly you are referring to; otherwise, you could call various species of fireflies an assortment of names as: green fireflies, yellow lightening bugs, red flashers, striped flasher, hunched backed lightening bugs, flight-wobblers, streakers, rapid flashers, double-flashers, flower-eaters, mangrove lamps, glowworms or any other conceivable common names or such translations as might be made into various languages. It is to avoid such confusing names that scientist use the genus-species name when referring to the insects or other animals and plants they are studying. If this were not done the result would be confusion, indeed.

    Primarily the species of firefly I have most studied is Photinus pyralis. I have also studied Photuris sp. In the case of Photuris sp. these fireflies often cannot be identified to species unless their mating flash patterns are recorded. A study by H. S. Barber, a beetle specialist at the United States National Museum, published after his death in 1950, distinguished some 18 species of Photuris in the Potomac Valley by their flash pattern, males generally having very little difference if structure or color. Dr. James E. Lloyd has been able to distinguish a number of new species in the genus Photinus merely by their flash patterns alone.

    There are about 170 species of fireflies in North America and many, many more worldwide. I don't know if anyone has ever made a report of the common names used locally for all species of fireflies, but I imagine if this were done you would come up with some fanciful names, indeed. Perhaps one of the most fanciful names for a luminescent beetle is that of the railroad worm. These South American beetles have two read lights on their heads and eleven pares of greenish lights along their sides. Although not a firefly, but beetles belonging to the family Phengodidae, you can see how people often base a common name on an insect's most distinguishing characteristics. Other good examples of this tendency of people to give insects common names related to distinguishing features or behavior are the elephant stag beetle (someone thought this beetle looked like an elephant, I guess), the rhinoceros beetle (which someone thought looked like a rhinoceros), dragonflies (neither a dragon nor a fly) and ladybug beetles (definitely no resemblance to any ladies I have ever known, but so named as they are a rather delicate, cute insect. However, its habit of eating aphids is not very ladylike!). Then there is the praying mantis, so named by those who thought this rather ungodly like insect which is a veracious predator looked like it was praying. Thus it is quite often that the common names given to insects do not always represent their true nature or behavior.

    I suggest that if you find a reference to a particular firefly as a red firefly or a green firefly or a white firefly (one perhaps that has recently emerged from its pupae and not yet tanned) or any other common named firefly or insect, that you realize this is not the scientific name of the insect being referenced. Many people have written about insects and other animals and plants using their common names. It is often easier to read stories or articles when giving the common names of animals and plants. Field guides will often use both the common and scientific names of insects, as these are designed for educational purposes, and help laymen and women to learn how to properly identify animals and plants, which is easier to do if you give the common name.

    However, when making a scientific report in technical journals scientists try to identify the genus-species they are working with so that other scientists may know this. Obviously if you say this is a golden sparkler firefly or a red light district flasher no one is going to have the foggiest idea what you are talking about! :-)

  16. Why do fireflies flash? The flashing of fireflies is part of their courtship behavior. Generally male fireflies fly about and flash to locate females. Each species of firefly has its own flash pattern of male-female signal and response. This enables males and females of the same species to locate each other.

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    PHOTO Lantern of a male firefly showing posterior ventrites (the four pit-like holes or openings in the lantern). Photo Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

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    PHOTO Lantern of a humped-back Photuris 20X. This particular Photuris was placed in a Petri dish and observed at long intervals to set at rest and flash repeatedly once per second in long sequences 20 to as many as 80 times! After a sequence of flashes the firefly would rest for a minute or so and again flash once per second many times. These voracious humped-back Photuris prey upon Photinus and apparently have a very complex brain and lantern as they can mimic the flash response of a number of species.

  17. What is meant by the synchronous flashing of fireflies? Some species of fireflies are able to synchronize their flashing so that they all flash in unison, on and off at the same time. In the United States I've observed P. pyralis males tend to adjust their flashes that they will flash in synchrony. I have also observed, infrequently, large displays of Photinus flashing in synchrony. In southeast Asia there are species of fireflies which occur in mangroves upon trees which exhibit spectacular displays where thousands of individuals flash in synchrony.

  18. Do fireflies have sex with more than one mate? Yes, some species of fireflies certainly exhibit a rather promiscuous behavior. As the photograph below shows, a number of P. pyralis are attempting to mate with a single female. However, once the female has accepted a male, she will not copulate again until another night.

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    Figure 3. The courtship of Photinus pyralis, a large firefly which occurs in the southeastern United States, frequently results in an orgy with numerous males attempting to copulate with a female. This behavior which occurs in nature can easily be duplicated and observed by placing males and females inside a jar. In nature males could easily fly away in search of other females, which they often do, but sometimes a number of males will remain in the presence of the female even after she has copulated, probably as a result of her odor, which compels the males to attempt to mate. Both male and female of P. pyralis will mate with different partners on different nights. For additional pictures of fireflies and their larvae visit the Photinus pyralis Gallery. Photo Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

  19. How long do fireflies live? Adult fireflies live only long enough to mate and lay eggs. In my efforts to collect and rear fireflies, I have found that adults of P. pyralis generally expire in 7-14 days. I have been able to extend the life span of adult males by feeding them a dilute solution of honey and water (or sugar water). This suggests that in nature if fireflies are able to find nectar they may be able to live a few days longer than adults which do not drink.

    Firefly eating honey. When a firefly which was captured at night is placed in a Petri dish it will walk about, feeling its way with its antennae which vibrate up and down. When the tiny crack between the lid and base of the Petri dish is detected with its antennae, the firefly will try to push its pronotrum under and into the crack, a repetitive behavior which normally would enable the firefly to escape under leaves, bark or other debris if it were outside in its natural habitat. However, when captive inside the Petri dish the firefly will just continue to walk about unable to find any suitable hiding place. If a drop of honey is placed upon a microscope slide and offered to the firefly, as soon as the firefly encounters the drop of honey with its antenna, the firefly immediately pauses and begins to feed. Feeding fireflies remain motionless which provides a very good opportunity to photograph them. After feeding upon honey fireflies will often try to fly away so one needs to quickly return them to a covered Petri dish or jar. Photo Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    Firefly larvae in the southeastern United States live approximately a year; i.e. from one mating season to the next mating season. How long a firefly lives in the ground is probably a function of ground temperature and availability of food. In colder climates the rate of growth of firefly larvae may be slower than in warmer climates so that firefly larvae in the Northern U.S. or Canada takes longer to mature than firefly larvae in the deep south or Florida.

    The species of firefly I am most familiar with is P. pyralis, which I have studied in Central and Northern Alabama. P. pyralis in Alabama takes at least a year to mature. Larvae hatch out of their eggs in about three weeks. The larvae eat earthworms, aggregate and grow through a series of moults. In the spring the larvae pupates inside a chamber and emerges as an adult, spending its entire adult life in nightly courtship flights, seeking a mate. Impregnated females will lay eggs and the life cycle then repeats itself.

  20. What do fireflies eat? We like to think of fireflies as gentle, peaceful creatures and spin tales of love and romance with fireflies dancing in the woods and meadows Yet it is largely a myth, a fairy tale based upon ignorance which attributes to the firefly the amorous human spirit its twinkling summer time courtships dances evoke, rather than reflecting that of their true nature.

    One has only to open their eyes and look closely to find the truth; fireflies are by nature predatory, both in their larvae and, for many species, in their adult forms.

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    PHOTO Head of Photuris pennsylvanicus magnified 20X. This species of Photuris presents sharply spiked mandibles that protrude out in front of the mouth. The mandibles are normally in a closed position. Photo Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

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    Head of a living humped-back Photuris magnified 20X while clinging upside down to a glass Petri dish. Humped-back Photuris, like Photuris versicolor, are designed for preying upon other fireflies such as Photinus. Photuris lures its prey by mimicking a female flash response or by actively hunting flashing males. Photuris pounces upon it prey, and straddles over its victim to make a rear assault. The mandibles of Photuris are very sharp, like a sickle, and are thrust into its prey rapidly stabbing them over and over, injecting a paralyzing digestive venom. The humped-back Photuris have thus evolved into a very effective and efficient killing machine, luring Photinus by mimicking a female Photinus flash response, striking like a viper, its sickle-like mandibles protruding forward to pierce its victims and inject a paralyzing, highly toxic venom. PHOTO Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    Photuris head at 20X. Here is seen the same Photuris as above; however, this specimen has expired. The mandibles of the expired Photuris have relaxed and are protruding forward. The mandibles of the humped-back Photuris act like a syringe to pierce its prey and inject them with venom as the humped-back Photuris straddles its victim, their arched body hovering over their paralyzed victims as they slowly and meticulously devour them alive over the course of many minutes. PHOTO Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    Mandibles of expired Photuris at 50X. Notice that at the base of the mandibles and the forefront of the head there appears a three pointed saw-like plates which may help tear apart its paralyzed prey. Photuris repeatedly injects its victims with a highly corrosive saliva, liquefying the flesh of its victims which it then devours alive over the course of many minutes or hours until all that remains is an exoskeleton. The arched body of Photuris along with its hooked tarsal claws enables Photuris to pounce upon and subdue its prey with fatal, paralyzing bites, that once the victims are motionless, Photuris can slowly rip apart its body, tearing out its flesh and eating them alive. PHOTO Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    Photuris makes rear assault. By making a rear assault as shown here, the humped-back Photuris avoids getting bitten by its prey which also has large mandibles and might be able to inflict a paralyzing bite. Photuris remained straddling its victim, clutching its prey from the back, biting its head for many minutes. This serves to paralyze the victim. Only later after many minutes did Photuris move to a different position, feeding upon the side of its prey's head and then flipping its prey over to feed upon its underside. PHOTO Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    Humped-back Photuris feeding upon P. pennsylvanicus at approximately 22 minutes after the initial attack. Photuris appears to repeatedly bite its victim with its sharp pointed, sickle-like mandibles, working upon the head of its prey, biting it over and over with its sickle-shaped mandibles. Some 22 minutes after the initial attack, the body of its prey is still fully intact as Photuris straddles it and holds it firmly with its legs and grapnel hooked-like tarsi. PHOTO Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    Humped-back Photuris preying upon P. pennsylvanicus at approximately 2 hours after the initial attack. Photuris pounces upon its prey, making a rear assault, then bites and paralyzes its prey slowly devouring it over time. PHOTO Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    The fact that the humped-back varieties of Photuris have evolved into predatory, flesh devouring, killing machines, first luring their victims by mimicking a female flash response, then lashing out, pouncing upon them, grabbing them with their clawed tarsi, injecting them like vipers with retracted, piercing mandibles that puncture their victims like a viper's bite, their arched bodies straddling over their victims as they are slowly and methodically bitten time and again, injected with digestive venom, demonstrates how evolution has selected for both physical body modifications and behavior modifications. This is a spectacular example of how evolution of both behavior and body form together occur to contribute to the survival of a species as it competes to reign supreme in a world of flashing and dancing lights!

    Voracious Photuris feeding upon its firefly prey. Video by Terry Lynch shows Photuris still feeding upon its prey some two hours after it was lured, pounced upon and subdued. Photuris straddles its victim, biting it over and over, ripping and tearing apart its flesh, slowly eating its paralyzed prey alive. Notice how the arched body of Photuris acts as a lever-fulcrum such that when Photuris lifts its legs its force is multiplied to make ripping and tearing apart its victim's flesh easier. This may explain why these variety of Photuris have evolved to have humped-backed bodies, as this configuration enables them to more effectively and efficiently devour their prey. Video Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    The predation of the humped-back varieties of Photuris upon Photinus (as well as upon other species of Photuris) may help explain the recessed nature of the head of Photinus (and P. pennsylvainicus) beneath an enlarged shield-like pronotrum. Indeed, the pronotrum would aid in shielding Photinus from the viper like strike and bites of Photuris such that a larger pronotrum and recessed head would be of survival benefit to Photinus. In contrast, Photuris has evolved a more robust, vulture-like body, with a smaller head that protrudes forward accented by sickle-like mandibles which act like the fangs of a viper to stab and pierce its victims. There is clearly a dynamic going on between Photuris and its prey with respect to the natural selection of each in both body form and behavior that may contribute to their respective survival.

    I have been able to photograph and even make video of Photuris after it has lured prey, attacked them and proceeded to devour them alive. Photuris does not immediately decapitate its prey; rather Photuris pounced upon its prey, bites and paralyzes its prey. Then Photuris slowly and methodically repeatedly bites its prey, injecting venom which turns their organs to liquid such that they may be devoured over the course of the evening.

    The soft, pink colored tissue of the thorax just below a prey firefly's head is where the voracious Photuris rips apart its prey. Some two hours into its attack, Photuris had ripped open the body of its prey and sucked up internal body fluids and digested organs. It is interesting that the tissue area first targeted by Photuris for emasculation is the same tissue that is colored bright reddish. What chemicals are causing this red coloration and is evolution acting to select for fireflies which are so colored to provide a yet unknown defensive advantage? This would be worthy of further investigation.

    Get Hooked On Fireflies!  Buy these gifts and apparel to help promote study of fireflies and entomology.

    The double hooked claw and tarsal pads at 20X of a Pennsylvanians humped-back Photuris clinging upside down to the glass of a Petri dish. Notice the tarsal pads are covered with many fine hairs. I have often observed these humped-back Photuris having lured male Photinus to their death by mimicking the flash response of a female Photuris; and, I have used this behavior to locate Photuris in the field. The doubled hooked claws of Photuris obviously play no role in clinging to glass or other slippery surfaces, this being the function of the hair covered tarsal pads; however, the doubled hooked claws do aid Photuris in grabbing its victims and ripping their bodies apart. PHOTO Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    Adult Photuris are also equipped with sharp hooked clawed tarsi used to rip apart the flesh and tear into pieces the bodies of their victims. These are not the gentle creatures of love and lore; they are like raptors, which stalk and lure their prey, neighbor species upon which they cannibalize, even mimicking the courtship flash responses of females, that male Photinids will be lured to their death by these ravenous rivals for field and forest.

    The hooked tarsal claw of an adult firefly. The tarsi of fireflies are equipped with a large claw and pads which enable fireflies to cling to the undersides of leaves and to even walk upon glass. The tarsal claw also aids Photuris, a predacious species of fireflies, to capture its prey and rip apart their bodies; hence, one might think of such predacious species of fireflies as raptors of the firefly world, to be dreaded and feared if you are a more gentile Photinus. Shown here is the tarsal claw of Photuris pennsylvanicus at 20X. Photo Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    Nor are fireflies gentle creature in their youth, as firefly larvae prey upon other soft bodied animals such as snails, slugs and earthworms. A firefly larvae injects its prey with a paralyzing saliva and then proceeds to eat its victim alive, digesting its flesh, turning it to liquid and drinking it until nothing remains but a shell.

    Photinus pyralis larvae wrapped around an earthworm and gorging itself upon its prey, a victim many times its size which was paralyzed with toxic venom, liquefied and eaten alive. Photo Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    Looking closely at the magnified head of firefly larvae their spiked, syringe-like, grooved mandibles are clearly indicative of a species which preys upon soft bodies animals, that to allude to fireflies as a loving, romantic creature in poetry and literature is to spin a yarn and tell a lie indicative of one's ignorance, foolishness or fanciful concern for anything but the truth.

    PHOTO Head of Photinus pyralis larvae showing sharply spiked, grooved mandibles and highly sensitive, forward pointed antennae used to feel their way through earthworm tunnels, soil and debris, in search of their earthworm prey which they will attack, paralyze and eat alive! Photo Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    Yet we continue to lie to and deceive our children creating fanciful animated films and fairy tales which depict fireflies as good natured creatures when, in fact, if you bother to look closely and make inquiry of their true nature, you find that fireflies are predatory by nature. Firefly larvae are the wolves of the cryptosphere and firefly adults live but to find a mate, copulate, lay eggs and die with many species preying upon and cannibalizing other fireflies. This aggressive nature of firefly larvae and predacious adults is hardly the kind, gentle nature conveyed of fireflies in lore; which may make one wonder what other tales have we as a humanity been told to our children about nature, the universe and God and creation?

    We give our children computers and cell phones and hardly a one asks for a microscope. Yet if we want to learn about the true nature of our world and all the animals and plants which inhabit Mother Earth, we need to be teaching our children how to look closely and discover the truth for themselves, with their own eyes and mind, that though fables, legends and lore may comfort the spirit and make nice bedtime stories, if we as a species are to survive we must not live by delusion, but come to know the truth.

  21. How high do fireflies fly? This is a question which has been asked by a number of students. When students write to me I ask that they please introduce themselves first and state their reason for writing. This is because I generally do not do homework assignment for students. So I will take this opportunity to inform all students that if their questions relates to a homework assignment, please do your own research and reading as that is the way you learn and the more you learn, this will contribute to your understanding and ability to communicate your knowledge to others.

    For questions that have known factual answers you can read and study and find the answers; for questions that do not have known factual answers you have to make your own observations and experiments using the scientific method. Believe it or not, there is more that is unknown than is known so there are always more unanswered questions than questions that have factual answers.

    For help about fireflies please go to: Firefly FAQs (this site) or Firefly Help and Links

    With regard to the specific question, "How high do fireflies fly," this is not a topic that is much discussed in the published literature; therefore, I will comment about it for those who have been assigned by their teachers to look this up.

    Photuris female launches into flight spreading its elytra and unfolding its wings. I just got lucky while taking a series of snapshots of this firefly as it suddenly decided to escape and leap into the air. This particular firefly did not fly very far as it was inside a Petri dish. Photo Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    There is no definite answer to this question. This is because there are over 170 species of fireflies in the US north of Mexico and many more species of fireflies around the world. Each species of fireflies has its own flight and mating behavior (such that adult male fireflies fly and flash while they search for females). Generally fireflies are observed most readily flying close to the ground in search of a mate. However, the keen observer can see other species that fly high in the trees. It is even possible sometimes to mimic the flash of a female firefly and lure these high flying fireflies to the ground and capture them.

    As the sun sets you have a twilight period, where there is still light, which grows less intense and dim over time, it being darker under trees than in open meadows. Some species of fireflies will begin to be active flying in the dark, shady, forested areas before they can be seen flying and flashing in adjacent open meadows. This indicates that the intensity or brightness of the light plays a role in their behavior and determines when fireflies will launch into their courtship flights. Also as the evening grows darker, some species which fly close to the ground can sometimes be observed to move higher up into the trees, perhaps continuing to search for females in the canopies of trees as later in the evening the tree tops have more ambient light than is present close to the ground.

    Fireflies need some light to see where they are going, otherwise they will collide into objects. Also fireflies have enemies, like spiders, and can occasionally be found captured by spiders in their webs or by hunting spiders upon the ground.

    On many occasions I have watched fireflies flashing high in pine, oak, pecan, cypress, cedar or other trees that range from 50 to 100 feet high! This can be observed by pointing a flashlight at the tree tops and blinking it. Sometimes fireflies will respond by flashing back, indicating that they are probably females, Photuris that is mimicking a female response, or males that blink when they see another male, to synchronize their flashes. Note that this third type of male flash is a behavior I first observed in Photinus pyralis and has not been mentioned frequently in the scientific literature on fireflies. When I have lured fireflies from tree tops, I generally have found them to be small male Photinids, indicating that they were males searching for females! However, I have certainly observed response flashes from high in the tree tops, suggesting the presence of females which are stationary, and which the male Photinids are seeking to locate.

    Certainly there are fireflies flying and searching for mates high in the tree tops long into the night. High flying fireflies have not been as intently studied as low flying fireflies given they are out of reach of ground observers. In fact, this is true of many insects which live high in the tree tops and canopy, especially in virgin forests and rain forests. Studying such species represents an opportunity for anyone with rock climbing skills who is interested in entomology and can adapt their skills to climbing trees. There are a few people who have done this, but it is a dangerous proposition and should absolutely NOT be attempted by anyone who does not have the proper skill, training and equipment, as a fall from a tree can cause serious injury, paralysis or even death.

  22. How do you photograph fireflies? With a camera and patients! Oh, and don't forget the film (or memory chip)! There is nothing worse than taking a whole sequence of pictures only to realize that you did not load the camera properly with film. Of course no one would ever do this! :-) The following fact sheet was prepared for someone who wrote to me and gives more information and suggestions in this regard:

    Photographing Fireflies

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    PHOTO Head of Photuris magnified 20X. This species of Photuris presents sharply spiked mandibles that protrude out in front of the mouth. The mandibles are normally in a closed position. Photo Copyright 2008 by Terry Lynch.

    While at the University of Florida I took a very good course on the Physics of Photography taught by Dr. Fields, who happens to be the brother of Sally Fields, the actress. I would highly recommend a course of this nature as it will acquaint you with the limits of photography.

    I've discussed this issue on numerous occasions and in some detail in How to Photograph Fireflies. It is one which comes up repeatedly. Always I have to remind amateur photographers that the factors under consideration are light intensity and distance between the subject (fireflies) and the film. Thus film sensitivity is an issue. But of primary consideration is how the intensity of light is diminished over distance via the law of inverse squares. That is, the intensity of light falling upon or illuminating a surface is inversely proportional to the distance squared from the light source. This makes it extremely difficult to photograph low intensity light at a distance, especially when the subjects are moving. The only reason astronomers are able to photograph extremely low intensity light from stars is because they make long exposures over time and follow the stars, plus may use methods of multiplying the intensity electronically and now days enhancing images by using computers.

    I should, perhaps, post related methodology upon the Internet, reviewing the work of others in this regard. But I have not done this yet. Let me just say, in brief, that photographing fireflies and other bioluminescent animals represents a challenge. Yet many have done some very good work in this regard. In fact some of the most spectacular images I've seen were of bioluminescent marine animals, these including both photographs and video or film productions. However, in regard to deep ocean photography one does not have to deal with ambient light intensity, given it is pitch black at the depth where many of the most remarkable bioluminescent animals occur.

    As for fireflies, your best results would be of individuals at very close range, using the largest aperture lenses available. As I mentioned intensity of firefly flashes is low to begin with and it will diminish over distance inversely by the square of the distance from the object. Then you have film sensitivity to be concerned with; i.e., at what wavelengths of light the film is most sensitive and how this compares with the wavelength of light emitted by fireflies (go to the library and review John Bonner Buck's early work for a review of this matter). In this regard you should obtain copies from Kodak and Fuji of their technical manuals which have all the film characteristics published. They will generally send you these upon request.

    There are "tricks" that can be used when photographing fireflies. I call them "tricks" as they relate to understanding behavior. For example, a firefly can be made to flash. Thus one could take a double exposure, first to capture the image of the firefly with a flash unit or strobe, then take a second long exposure to show the firefly's return blink. This is just a matter of using the proper setup and over time, causing the firefly to make a return flash, and repeating the process enough times to get the right results. I should perhaps mention here that it was my first observation of the fact male P. pyralis exhibits a rest and alert position and can be induced to flash and fly, which is the exact behavior others have capitalized upon to get pictures of a firefly flash response. So understanding behavior is important if you want to know how to set up a picture and get the results you desire. Plus you often have to take many pictures, over and over, just to get one right. This also is what photographers do, whether working in the studio or in nature. Once you get the technique down pat, you need to take many pictures to get a result you will be happy with. In the case of fireflies flashing at night, the best results can be obtained in a studio where you can control the ambient light. That is, you can use a flash or strobe to illuminate the subject, then photograph the return or response flash under total darkness via a long exposure.

    It is difficult to give specifics as this varies with your equipment. So what I'm doing is trying to point you in the right direction. Look at pictures in National Geographic. Review old copies in the library. They have shown fireflies, railroad worms and other bioluminescent animals. You can learn from these pictures what others have done and see how they did it. Then you can get ideas for the types of pictures you may want to try to take.

    If you just want to set up a camera and photograph fireflies from a long distance flying around at night, good luck. At best you would have to have a very dark night and some very bright fireflies. This is even difficult to do when you have synchronous flashing displays as in southeast Asia. But it is more difficult to do if you have rapidly flying fireflies. This is why so often in movies and commercials you see animations of fireflies flashing at night. I recall one movie, A Mid Summer Night's Dream with Woody Allen which showed an inaccurate animation of firefly flashes. And recently there has been a commercial which fails miserably to show how fireflies really look when they flash. Plus there is currently in production a movie entitled Fireflies which inaccurately depicts their glow in promotional material. When they contacted me with regard to being a consultant, they did not seem too concerned about this fact and were not willing to pay my price for help to insure such errors would not be made in their film. I suggest if you want to enjoy greater success, you observe rather closely how fireflies appear. Then learn to photograph them at close range. Then take something like a green LED, rig it so it has the same intensity and approximate wavelength as a firefly, and experiment to see how to capture this on film. What you find may be interesting as this will show you the limitations involved as with regard to the law of inverse squares as it relates to intensity and film sensitivity.

    You could make an extensive project of photographing fireflies and other bioluminescent animals. In fact, this is a specialized area of photography. You can do some very interesting things in the future if you work at it. But as with any form or art, experimentation and manipulation is required. Your are not "stealing" images, so much as you are recording moments in time, little snapshots of natural history, and the sooner you learn how to record them accurately, then the better results you will get.

    Adult male Photinus sp. photographed glowing in rest position by exposing firefly to diethyl ether. Fireflies were released after they were removed from the ether so no more accurate identification could be made. Photo Copyright © 2009 by Dantè Fenolio. You can see more excellent photographs of bioluminescent animals at Bioluminescence Photographs by Dantè Fenolio

    Here is an experiment you can do to get an idea of what is possible. Male adult fireflies can be made to glow continuously, as by exposing them to diethyl ether. When they are glowing continuously this gives you the opportunity to get some interesting photographs. Several examples of continuous glow are when a firefly is smashed, injured or begins to expire. Also when a firefly is captured by a spider it flashes repeatedly and then after some minutes glows constantly after the venom from the spider has paralyzed its muscles. In fact the later behavior is what I'd like to draw your attention to. Try to get some good photographs of fireflies glowing after they have been captured by hunting spiders (wolf spiders) or orb web weavers.

    In fact, making a film or video of this behavior is something I'd like to see. This may not be what you had in mind, but it would certainly make for a much more interesting photograph, and one that would be possible to get good results, than, say, what you were proposing, a long shot of a Texas landscape at night of fireflies flashing in a field or meadow.

    By the way, I happened to observe a rather remarkable display of fireflies flashing in synchrony in 1988, east of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It was a very dark night and this occurred in an area that had been clear cut and was away from city lights. A place like that would be the best area to try to photograph fireflies in the field, but one can not easily predict when such mass gatherings of fireflies will occur. I was just lucky to have been at the right place at the right time. It was one of those sights which is best photographed by the eye and mind, as when one views a great landscape like the Grand Canyon at sunset. You can try taking pictures of it, but the pictures are never quite as grand as the first hand experience. This is one of the limitations of photography in that the human eye and mind remain more sensitive than the camera, for it is not only light we are recording, but the entire sensory experience of the moment. Plus with respect to fireflies, you are dealing with a living organism, one which is active, moves, flies, flashes, all as part of a mating ritual. It is difficult to capture this nocturnal behavior on film, in still photography, as what we record in the moment fails to show what occurs the very next moment ... and it is this grand display or dance of fireflies of which you speak, which is what characterizes the summer night when fireflies are active.

    Well, I hope this will be of some help to you. If you are patient and persistent, I would think you will be able to experiment and come up with some interesting images of fireflies and their behavior in the future. But you have get up close and personal if you ever want to get those best pictures ... as there is no escaping the law of inverse squares!

    Adult male Photinus sp. photographed glowing in rest position by exposing firefly to diethyl ether. Fireflies were released after they were removed from the ether so no more accurate identification could be made. Photo Copyright © 2009 by Dantè Fenolio. You can see more excellent photographs of bioluminescent animals at Bioluminescence Photographs by Dantè Fenolio

    I would like to see any photographs you are able to take. Some particular pictures I'd like to see are:

    • Good shots of fireflies copulating, especially many males trying to copulate with a singular female.

    • Close ups of fireflies in flight, especially motion pictures or video.

      Some of the best photographs of fireflies in flight that I have seen have been taken by Terry Priest. Priest has presented an excellent description of how he took photographs of P. pyralis in flight using digital cameras.

      Photo copyright 2009 by Terry Priest
      Photinus pyralis in flight. Click on photo to see larger version. Photo courtesy of Terry Priest.

    • Any close ups of fireflies flashing.

    • Recordings of fireflies flashing in synchrony.

    • Scanning electron micrography of fireflies and their larvae.

    • High quality close-up photos of the various species of fireflies which may be used to make new dichotomous keys to identify the various genus-species of fireflies in North America and around the world.

    Please let me know what results you are able to get or if you need any additional help. If you have access to a scanning electron microscope I may be able to provide specimens of fireflies or firefly larvae in return for credit related to any work published. Thank you for your consideration and have fun photographing fireflies!

    Additional tricks to use in photographing bioluminescent animals

    People continue to write to me asking about how to photograph bioluminescent animals. The following reply was sent to a biologist at the University of Miami who made inquiry regarding how to photograph bioluminescent beetle larvae:

    Dear Dr. Dante Fenolio,

    Thank you for your inquiry. It is always nice to hear from other interested in bioluminescence and photography.

    I understand you are experimenting with photographing bioluminescent beetle larvae. Given you are in Florida this would either be firefly larvae or phengodes larvae. Have you had the opportunity to review my firefly sites on the Internet? You may find a list of my sites at

    Also be sure to review Firefly FAQs at

    And specifically review what I have written about photographing fireflies at:

    If you will tell me specifically what you are trying to photograph (firefly larvae or phengodes larvae) I may be able to give you more specific help. Much depends upon understanding behavior as well as the physics of photography and taking advantage of these facts to get as good a picture as possible given the equipment you may have access to. Also there are some "tricks" you may imply to help get good result.

    For example, did you know you can make a bioluminescent larvae glow continuously by exposure to diethyl ether? Also this makes the larvae immobile! Thus you could do a double exposure, first taking a picture with a flash, then doing a long exposure to record the bioluminescence.

    There were some rather nice photographs of railroad worms published in National Geographic some years ago in an article which referenced the work of Dr. John Bonner Buck. I was actually at the National Institutes of Health in 1968 and Dr. Buck showed me the railroad worms he had received from an associate; these were, I believe, the same railroad worms that were later photographed for illustration of the article in National Geographic. I shared with Dr. Buck my unpublished paper on collecting and rearing firefly larvae which mentioned the fact that diethyl ether could be used to make larvae glow continuously (which also works on the larvae inside the eggs right before they are ready to hatch, said larvae also responding to vibration by glowing brightly), a fact which was later used to enable photographing of the railroad worms which appeared in the National Geographic article. No one bothered at the time to mention how this was done, so it has remained an unpublished secret all these years, one which Dr. Buck took to the grave with him. At the time I was quite impressed by the brightness of the railroad worm specimens and how well the diethyl ether method worked to enable their being photographed!

    It was at about this same time that I told Dr. Buck about this method that I shared the same information with Dr. James E. Lloyd at the University of Florida in Gainesville; i.e, that diethyl ether can be used to make larvae glow, a fact which enables their bioluminescence to be more easily photographed. I had discovered this when studying how to collect and rear firefly larvae, as this method makes it easier to find even very small larvae in large amounts of soil or debris. Actually I first observed this when using ether on adult fireflies to make them motionless; then later I tried it when collecting firefly larvae from soil in the field, as the larvae flash brightly when first disturbed, but then disappear before they can be located. The diethyl ether made them glow so I could find them again easily from a large amount of soil. Not very many people know this trick as I have only related it to Dr. Buck and Dr. James E. Lloyd. This methodology was in an unpublished paper I gave cope of to Dr. Buck way back in 1968 and to Dr. Lloyd in 1970. Also I have told a few others about this method when the question came up. So if you see any good photographs of glowing beetle larvae, odds are someone put this little bit of information to good use!

    In Florida I have collected phengodes larvae, but they lack the red lights of the species from Central and South America. I would certainly recommend you try the diethyl ether trick to get your larvae to remain still and glow while you capture their image! If it worked for Dr. Buck using railroad worms, it should work with phengodes from Florida. Just remember that you have to work fast; if you leave the beetle larvae exposed to the diethyl ether too long they will expire.

    When photographing fireflies and other beetle larvae basically you just have to play around, experiment, try different techniques, until you find something that works to get the result you are aiming to achieve. I have also mentioned that other methods can be used to make lanterns glow continuously: a damaged or injured firefly will glow brightly for many minutes; fireflies glow brightly as a result of spider bites. The venom of a hunting spider causes P. pyralis to flash rapidly, which slowly decreases to a long, steady glow; Photinids caught by orb web weaver spiders will often flash brightly when first caught, then be seen to glow continuously; and insecticides used for spraying mosquitoes cause adult fireflies to glow brightly as they expire. Certainly these facts can be used to enable one to get interesting photographs of these related continuous glow behaviors.

    Unfortunately when photographing fireflies or other small bioluminescent animals you have the inverse square law working against you as well as the fact that light emitted by larvae is of low intensity. Then film sensitivity enters into the equation. One may even wish to experiment with infra red film or high speed black and white films to record glow and then use enhancement technology to replace the color, similar to how NASA adds color to photographs taken using a Mars Rover.

    I would be interested in seeing any good results achieved in photographing fireflies, their larvae or other bioluminescent animals. Also I would welcome the opportunity to publish your pictures on one of my sites related to bioluminescence, giving you full and due credit, of course.

    If I can be of any additional help, please let me know.

    Best regards,
    Terry Lynch

    P.S. I will be adding this reply to my Firefly FAQ page, given this matter may be of interest to other who are challenged with how to photograph bioluminescence animals. Should you use my methodology in photographing bioluminescent animals, I would appreciate credit in any published accounts. Thank you.

  23. How do I collect and submit firefly specimens? The following fact sheet was prepared for anyone who is interested in collecting fireflies and submitting specimens. Note: Please contact Terry Lynch for a mailing address if you are interested in submitting specimens. I only accept specimens that are properly collected and preserved (see below).

    Collecting and Preserving Insect Specimens

    How to collect and preserve fireflies and other small insects for microscopic observation, photographing and related studies

    Adult fireflies or other small insects may be collected with an insect net and preserved in 70% alcohol (rubbing alcohol). Use a small bottle with a tight fitting lid, especially if sending specimens through the mail.

    Label the specimens using a pencil, not ink, which may dissolve and run if it gets alcohol upon it. Indicate your name, address, where or how specimen was collected or found and date collected. When written in pencil this can be placed on the INSIDE of the bottle with the specimens. A second label with the same information should be taped to the outside of the bottle. Send specimens to BUGS: Insect Identification Service along with a completed Insect ID Form and $15.00 fee.

    When sending specimens through the mail wrap the bottle in bubble wrap. I prefer bubble wrap to pop corn as the pop corn is loose and messy! Put the specimen bottle wrapped inside bubble wrap inside a Zip Lock bag and seal the bag. This is just an extra precaution so that if the bottle breaks or leaks the contents remains inside.

    Then put this in a small cardboard box or envelop. Enclose a cover letter which states: "Enclosed are insect specimens preserved in 70% alcohol for your study and usage. This specimen sample contains NO living organisms or biohazard agents." You may say whatever else you want.

    Please do not send any material you need to be returned. All submissions become the property of Terry Lynch as they may be mounted, dissected or otherwise used. I will give credit to collectors for sending samples should they be used in any studies or photographed and the results published, including publications via the Internet.

    Before posting specimens visit Bugs: Insect Identification Service for complete instruction, forms and address.

    I am especially interested in fireflies (including firefly larvae). Other small insects, especially those of a colorful or unusual nature which may make good subjects to photograph under a microscope will be accepted. I am also interested in the entire contents of light traps; i.e., insects attracted to UV light traps and collected and preserved in 70% alcohol from known locations and times of trapping.

    Note: Many entomologist would prefer insects to be penned and mounted. I prefer specimens preserved in 70% alcohol even though this may cause pigment changes over time, because specimens are to be used for photomicrography studies and should not be damaged by penning.

    I reserve the right to publish photographs of any specimens submitted and will give credits to the collector. Also specimens CAN NOT be returned and may be destroyed during handling, processing or usage.

    DO NOT send any live specimens. I DO NOT want live specimens. All specimens sent for usage should be preserved in 70% alcohol. Be sure bottles do not leak. Plastic electric tape around a bottle cap helps make a good seal. Using Saran wrap over the top of a bottle before placing the cap on will also help make a good seal. If you do not have glass specimen bottles you may get these from a supply house. You may also get small specimen bottles from some pharmacists or recycle commercial product bottles.

    For UV light traps use small 1/2 pint canning jars available at any grocery store and seal with regular canning lids. You can collect thousands of small insects using a UV light trap, some for your own studies, others to share with associates. In fact using UV light traps to collect insects is a good way to determine what species are active at night and occur in different areas. A good research project would be to travel across the country making UV light trap collections and then reporting the quality (type; i.e., genus-species) and quantity of insects collected. Also this can be done for specific locations or areas and/or studies limited to a particular genus-species active at night and attracted to UV light.

    How to make a UV light trap. Buy a small UV light fixture, the kind that has a cord, switch and bulb all included. These generally measure about 18 inches long. The popular variety used to illuminate posters works great as do the type used to illuminate aquariums. These may be found in pet shops or novelty shops. Refer to Terry's UV Light Trap to see what one of these type of traps looks like so that you may more easily follow this design to make your own UV light trap.

    UV Lamp Trap. PHOTO Copyright 2004 by T.A. Lynch. All rights reserved.

    Hang the UV light outside, suspended vertically. Then use a piece of cloth, plastic or other material to make a stop or block with a funnel shaped collector underneath this. The idea is to arrange this so that when insects are attracted to the light they hit the collector and fall down into a collection bottle. You can be creative in your configuration here. I've made some UV light traps which use cross panel stops made from Plexiglas or foam core board with the UV light mounted in the center. Insects attracted to the light hit the panels and then fall into a funnel/collection bottle. You can make a funnel form the neck of a liter plastic soda bottle. One of the best designs is to use a cylinder of wire mesh with the UV light in the center, then the funnel arrangement below. These end up looking sort of like a bug zapper, except instead of zapping the insects with high voltage, you collect them in a funnel/alcohol bottle below the trap.

    Use a small 1/2 pint jar to collect insects in 70% alcohol. Samples made during warm summer months when night flying insects are very active can yield tremendous numbers of small insects in a very short time. When making critical studies be sure to change your collection jar each night and properly label it to indicate who, when, where and what was collected.

    UV light traps have long been used by entomologist to collect insects. Portable units set up in the field, away from city lights can yield and amazing assortment of insects in a very short time.


    Professional photomicrographs can be prepared for publication or presentation. If you have a special need for photomicrographs please contact Terry. You may see my work on display in the Sci-Tech Gallery.

    How to submit specimens. Send firefly specimens to Dr. Firefly. Firefly specimens are needed from throughout North America and around the world to develop new Firefly Keys that everyone can use to help identify fireflies.

    Generally specimens may be collected and preserved in 70% alcohol. Please submit all specimens in small specimen vials. Use a 0.5mm mechanical lead pencil to write your name, place and date of collection on a small piece of white paper which is placed in the specimen vial as shown in Fig. PH1. Very small insects make good subjects for photomicrography. The body parts of larger insects may also make good subjects for photomicrography. There is a fee for all commercial photography.

    What is that bug bugging you?
    Figure PH1. Specimens of small insects and arthropods may be collected and preserved in 70% alcohol. Send specimens to BUGS: Insect Identification Service along with a completed Insect ID Form and $15.00 fee. Photo Copyright 2006 by T. A. Lynch. All rights reserved.

    I am especially interested in producing photomicrographs to illustrate scientific articles, reports, books other and publications. As a professional photographer and graphic designer I have produced thousands of works. My work has been used by such major corporations as Occidental Chemical Corp., the US Department of Army Corps of Engineers, the University of Florida, and IFAS (Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences). There are over 20,000 original designs which I have produced on commercial products in the Byteland Art Gallery (as of Nov. 2006). Special commissions are welcome. Please contact Terry.

    Got a Firefly Question?

  24. Where can I send my questions about fireflies?

    Send your firefly questions to Terry Lynch. I generally try to answer e-mails promptly and may add to this site over time. Please begin all inquires with an email Letter of Introduction. Include your real name along with your location (city, state, country) and any specific observations, facts or findings which relate to your question. If you have any related experience to firefly or insect studies, please relate this. Also give specifics as relates to your association with any college or university. Preference will be give to those who first make a donation to support this project. There is a $5.00 consultation fee due upon receipt of all personal inquiry replies. It is necessary to charge this reasonable fee to support this project, maintain this site and help in efforts to raise awareness for the preservation of fireflies around the world. Thank you for your inquiry and support!

  25. Are there fireflies in California, Oregon or Washington State? Do fireflies occur in the Rocky Mountains?

    Certainly fireflies are most commonly observed in greatest numbers east of the Mississippi River all the way from Florida to Maine. However, occasional reports have come form such unlikely places as Arizona, Idaho, California, Oregon and Washington state. Although I have never personally collected fireflies in any states west of the Rocky Mountains, others have reported seeing fireflies and/or their larvae in western states. There are species of fireflies which glow as larvae but do not fly, flash and blink as adults. These are often seen glowing in their immature form or larvae-like adult forms and are commonly referred to as glow worms. Yet they really are not worms, but members of the Lampyridae family. Such species as Pterotus obscuripennis have been found in the northwest and are quite beautiful.

    If you are interested in learning more about these varieties of "glow worms" please see:

      Glow worm links

      Search for Pterotus obscuripennis LeConte 1859 via Yahoo

      Glow worm via the Bug Guide hosted by Iowa State University

      California Lampyridae

      Douglas Fir Glow Worm

      Elateriformia (Coleoptera) Pterotinae (anelytrous females) LAMPYRIDAE -- This report by J. F. Lawrence, A. M. Hastings, M. J. Dallwitz, T. A. Paine and E. J. Zurcher has a very good description of this species.

      Glow-WORM PHENGODIDAE (Phengodid Beetle) (Glow-Worm) (Including Pseudophengodidae).

      What's That Bug? -- Numerous photos of insects people have posted for identification. There is pictures of adult male firefly, Pterotus obscuripennis.

      Dave's Garden -- With photos of Pterotus obscuripennis

  26. What are those strobe lights hovering above the horizon: UFO's and other sightings?

    Not all lights in the sky are fireflies: UFO's vs. Lampyridae

    I don't know what those lights in the sky are, but they probably are not fireflies! If you are seeing strange lights in the sky, hovering over the woods, meadows, lakes or ocean, this would come under the category of UFO's, not bioluminescent animals. Fireflies are small insects with lanterns that glow which you can hold in your hand, not ethereal gases or hovering luminescent discs. If you send me an email as an anonymous person about such a sighting it will be considered as such and probably not taken too seriously. After all, I study fireflies and other creatures which glow, and though these and other bioluminescent animals are quite alien species compared to humans, they are NOT visitors from beyond! So if you send me a UFO sighting it will be treated with skepticism and jocularity as in the cases below:

    Can you tell me what insect this is? My grandparents live on the border of Maryland and West Virginia in a small mountain resort by the Youghiogheny River in Oakland, Maryland. It's full or wildlife and their aren't too many people there. At night (like REALLY dark clear nights) several times in late June or early July, around 1 or 2 o'clock, they would see bright lights (as bright as strobe lights) about six inches in diameter hovering above the ground. They would illuminate at the same time and go away at the same time as well. Sometimes they would hover in a circle. Never before have we seen it's source. If it is a firefly can you please tell me why they behave that way? Submitted rather anonymously via email.

    This sounds more like a UFO sighting than any fireflies or other bioluminescent organisms I'm aware of which may occur in West Virginia.

    There are, of course, fireflies in West Virginia, as well as foxfire, which is really a bioluminescent fungi often seen upon decaying wood in densely forested areas. But I know of no six inch diameter fireflies. Of course elderly people often have vision problems which might make tiny lights seen from afar seem larger given the apparent glow or aura like effect caused by cataract or other medical conditions which produce blurred vision. Even fluid over the eye when one first wakes can create auras around distant street lights or the moon! People suffering from migraines or epilepsy have also reported a sensation of glowing light.

    I would suggest the person who saw these floating orbs have their eyes tested and should these be found to be 20/20 then their sense of humor should be tallied; then, their heads examined, as I've known quite a few parents and grandparents given to spinning a good yarn.

    Why for centuries there were even tales of glowing flocks of birds, yet bioluminescence is not known to occur in birds, reptiles or mammals. Bioluminescence has only been reported in certain bacteria, fungi, one-celled animals, sponges, jellyfish-like animals, corals, marine worms, clams, snails, arthropods (including insects) and a variety of deep sea fishes. To my knowledge none of these deep sea creatures have taken to the air and are hovering in the woods of West Virginia. However, I did hear a fanciful tale of a tribe of natives who covered their bodies with a glowing goo of mashed lightening bugs and danced naked in the woods, leaping and lurching about until they fainted after drinking a mix believed to contain psychedelic mushrooms. They claimed to have experienced astral projection and were transported through a worm hole into another time and dimension where there was no physical form of existence, only that which was imagined.

    There was, of course, no truth to this tale, it having been made up by a writer of science fiction and fantasy. However, in his wonderful review of fireflies, "In Defense of Magic: The Story of Fireflies," Howard Ensign Evans does mention Pyrophorus, a variety of bioluminescent click beetle, saying, "When Sir Robert Dudly and Sir James Cavendish first landed in Cuba, they saw great numbers of lights moving about in the woods. Supposing them to be Spaniards with torches, ready to advance upon them, the British withdrew to their ships and went on to settle Jamaica. In this manner Pyrophorus may be said to have changed the course of history." (H. E. Evans. Life on a Little Known Planet. p 108).

    So I dare say, hearing about dancing fairies or six inch UFOs in the woods of West Virginia, where folklore is alive and well and moonshine still flows freely from the Maw's and Paw's jug, nothing surprises me anymore!

    Now should you take an insect net and capture any live specimens of fireflies in West Virginia, which excludes glowing swamp gases, then you may begin to inquire of their species. And should you wish to share your confirmed sighting with me by posting specimens of fireflies and a description or recording of their flash pattern, then please do so.

    Oh, and tell your grandparents to go easy on the whisky ... a little too much moonshine will make folk see all sorts of glowing orbs in the night, coming and going all at the same time, which of course, means they were not their at all!


    Believe it or not this person's mother wrote me back disappointed that I did not take the sighting of six-inch diameter fireflies seriously, claiming they were made by a well respected persons, thought my reply was "rude and impertinent," declaring they would take the matter up with the National Academe of Science, to which I further replied:

    When someone sends a rather preposterous inquiry anonymously, and forever remain anonymous, they should be grateful for any reply at all!

    Quite frankly I do not care who may have made the UFO type observation indicated. There simply do not exist any six inch diameter fireflies! But there certainly does exist a long history of UFO sighting by a long list of so called "professional" people. Until you can establish otherwise, the report sent me falls into that category, one of hoaxes and/or illusions, or at the very best a poorly reported sighting or some unknown phenomena.

    You are quite welcome to relate said report, my reply and reference to my Firefly FAQ site at to the National Academy of Science or to any other entomological society you wish. But unless you do a better job of identifying who your are, specifying who made the observation in the first place, giving more specific details along with the collection of bioluminescent specimens, you should expect to be met with skepticism, not taken seriously and/or laughed at by those who are scientifically minded and have heard their fill of rumors about UFO's and other glowing orbs which, quite frankly, do not exist except in the minds and imaginations of those who pretend to see them.

    So Mr/Ms Anonymous, either come out and identify yourself or stop sending out wildly fanciful emails and spreading rumors about sightings which YOU personally did not see, photograph or have any real data to verify. Without any proof a report remains unsubstantiated. Science, unlike the court of human affairs, requires proof in the form of observations and/or experiments others can repeat and verify. So far you have shown nothing but rumor and rumor does not have any merit except to those who base their life on faith rather than scientific investigation.

    I suggest you collect some of the specimens producing the lights of which you speak and pass them on to a taxonomist for identification. Otherwise I'm perfectly comfortable with saying that the rumor of which you speak is nothing more nor less than such, a UFO sighting, the result of poor vision or some drunken or drug induced delusion.

    It is not the first time people have thought they saw a bioluminescent animal which simply does not exist. Were the observations of which you spoke at 3,000 feet beneath the surface of the ocean, I'd grant them some merit. But there simply are no fireflies with six-inch diameter lanterns, no bioluminescent birds, bats or hovering butterflies with lights on their tails or wings! There are bioluminescent gnats in New Zealand which cause some quite spectacular displays. And there is foxfire, a bioluminescent fungi which has been known to produce some wonderful displays. And of course there are numerous species of fireflies in North America as well as bioluminescent click beetles and phengodes larvae which have eleven pairs of lights along their sides. But these do not float or hover as larvae simply do not have wings and can not fly or hover above the ground.

    So I suggest that until you can produce these six-inch diameter hovering strobe light creatures, that they do not exist! Show them to me! You can't because they do not exist!

    Who now is the one you want to report to the National Academy of Science? I'm sure they will greet your anonymous rumor of giant strobes hovering like UFOs with as much skepticism as I do. While you are at it I suggest you report this to those people who deal with paranormal phenomena as well as NASA. I'm sure they might be interested in six-inch hovering strobe lights. Plus if you are getting a laugh trying to see if you can perpetuate a hoax about bioluminescent animals, it ain't working!

    You should note that the initial inquiry sent to me was treated with added skepticism because the sender failed to identify themselves or the people claimed to have made said observation. Anonymous reports do not merit much serious consideration. That you now claim the persons making said observations are responsible, credible and/or professional means nothing as you still haven't identified them and shared a first hand, authored account. Thus this report remains a rumor! Until this is corrected you are just passing on a rumor and I do not treat all rumors seriously. Quite frankly this reminds me of Big Foot or the Lock Ness monster. Should you wish you can report me to the National Academy of Science for being skeptical in regard to those sightings also!

  27. Where can I get more information about fireflies and your research? For additional information about fireflies and my research you may refer to the original reports and articles which I have published on-line (see below).

    Original Articles & Reports by T. A. Lynch

    Phengodidae may be collected by at night by raking through leaf litter. When disturbed phegodidaes emits a bright greenish light which is best appreciated if one drapes an opaque trap over themselves to block out all extraneous light and accustom one's eyes to total darkness. Phengodidae may be found from Florida north to Michigan in state parks and wetland areas where there are thick groves of trees and leaf litter which may be rich in their prey, millipedes.
    Click on pic to make a donation and support firefly research. Thank you!

    Enjoy reading these original articles and reports about fireflies by Terry Lynch who has long enjoyed spending his summer evenings watching the dance of fireflies in fields, meadows and forests. Lynch has been studying fireflies since he was a teenager and lived at the edge of Talladega National Forest in Jacksonville, Alabama, where Photinus pyralis occurred in such great numbers one could easily net hundreds in the course of five or ten minutes. Today such large numbers of firefly have decreased in many areas due to the impact of urbanization, over spraying for mosquitoes, light pollution and other factors. Learning about fireflies is the first step in preserving them that our children's children will still be able to enjoy watching fireflies twinkle and flash during their twilight mating dance each summer.

    • Amazing and spectacular SEM images of fireflies by Terry Lynch. A collaborative effort between Terry Lynch and Dennis Kunkel produced an amazing series of SEM images which reveal the marvelous cuticular structures of a firefly's tarsal claws, tarsal pads, tenent setae, and grooved mandibles and mouthparts.

      Click to see more spectacular firefly images

      Compound Eye of the Firefly, Photinus sp. PHOTO Copyright © 2011 by Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc. Specimen collected, preserved, provided, identified, described, and digitally enhanced by Terry Lynch.

      These are without a doubt some of the most beautiful SEM images of fireflies produced to date and give insight into how fireflies are adapted to survive in a competitive environment where it is imperative to be able to cling to smooth surfaces while flashing and signaling for a mate, and at the same time grasp a prey firefly with grappling hook-like tarsal claws and sticky tarsal pads.

    • Firefly Warfare Naturalist and photographer, Terry Lynch, tells how study of a dwarf species of firefly which occurs atop Mt. Cheaha led to developing a new theory he calls "Firefly Warfare." Lynch presents an amazing and spectacular collection of SEM images which express and emphasize morphological features and special adaptations of fireflies and how these equip fireflies for competition. Lynch goes further to explain how fireflies are using their flash patterns to create social networks and compete for territory functioning as a group, tribe or army to gain power and control over territory. Lynch refers to an unpublished report presented to military strategists which has implications for how "Firefly Warfare" revelations may effect future human warfare and be used to achieve victory in the War on Terrorism.

    • Victory Matrix -- Victory Matrix by Terry Lynch. How fireflies use social networking to gain power and control over territory in what is a form of Firefly Warfare that enables the victor to establish great numbers and flash in grand synchronous displays. Lynch postulates that it is through establishing linked triads that high densities of fireflies create vast social networks to dominate territory which over time brings them able to flash in victory which in some species is seen as grand synchronous displays.

    • Compound Eye of Photinus pyralis SEM image of the compound eye of Photinus firefly. Lynch also shows how to calculate and estimate the number of facets in the compound eye of a firefly. This simple method may be applied to estimate the number of facets in the compound eye of any insect.

    • The Head of Photuris SEM image of the head of Photuris firefly. Naturalist and photographer, Terry Lynch, presents the head of a Photuris firefly imaged by Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc. to illustrate special morphological features and adaptations which aid Photuris to compete and survive. Lynch also presents a special sites featuring the Tarsal Claw of Firefly, the Tenent Setae of Firefly and the Head of Photinus.

    • Firefly Watching Boosts Eco-Tourism -- Terry Lynch talks about his firefly watching experiences and suggests experiments others may do to learn more about fireflies in order to make wise decisions with respect to preservation of firefly habitats and eco-tourism.

    • Lynch, Terry (2013). Presenting Guinto talnene: A new species of firefly discovered at Ang Tribu Bagobo Woodlands, Mindanao, The Philippines." -- A new genus-species of firefly, Guinto talnene (proposed scientific name pending complete description is made and published) has been discovered to occur near Mt. Apo, at Ang Tribu Bagobo Woodlands, Mindanao, The Philippines. According to anonymous sources, the new firefly species was an unexpected discovery in specimens examined in December of 2013 which are shown and described with photographs pending a more formal publication of their morphology in the scientific literature.

    • Fireflies of Palawan Follow an on-going research project to learn and discover about the fireflies of Palawan, a spectacularly beautiful tropical island in the Philippines where Terry Lynch was the first to identify Pteroptyx sp. as the species responsible for flashing displays which are a boost to eco-tourism in the area around Pureto Princesa.

    • Firefly Keys: How to identify fireflies by Terry Lynch Firefly Keys is an outstanding presentation of pioneering work done by experts which tells you how to identify fireflies and references research and reports of value to amateur and professional entomologist alike. You may also participate in the production of Firefly Keys by collecting and sending firefly specimens from North America and around the world to Dr. Firefly.

    • How to rear fireflies by Terry Lynch Naturalist and photographer, Terry Lynch, shows how to rear firefly larvae, collecting eggs from adults and photographing the young larvae after they emerge from their eggs.

    • The Last Firefly Firefly demes are rapidly being devastated by light pollution, over spraying for mosquitoes by oil-based foggers, and turning forest, fields and meadows into asphalt parking lots and concrete urban jungles.

    • Exploring Nature's Wonders Upon A Summer's Eve: Revelations of truth, beauty, wonder and the firefly wars! This article dispels the classical myth and traditional belief of firefly courtship as a romantic experience when, in fact, it is an extreme competition for territory and food for a firefly's posterity, what the author likes to call, Firefly Warfare! The author also explains the fallacy of relying upon firefly sightings without collecting specimens and other physical evidence and demonstrates how even photographs may be manipulated, that the scientific method must involve a process which may be repeated by other scientists and naturalists to produce consistent results so as to arrive at correct and verifiable conclusions.

    • Blinks and Links Blink and Links is produced by The Firefly Project to help educate and inform the public about fireflies and other bioluminescent animals and plants.

    • Firefly Help Education, Instructions, News and Advice: A Guide to the Study of Fireflies. In addition to Firefly FAQs this site will include news, updates and other wit and wisdom related to fireflies.

    • Firefly Mysteries Revelations related to the egg, embryo, early instar and behavior of Photinus pyralis larvae with respect to gregarious feeding behavior, vivisection of host food via digestive enzymes, interring of earthworms and proof larvae use eyes and lanterns to form aggregates. This report includes photographs of P. pyralis and presents original research detailing rearing techniques and aspects of P. pyralis larvae behavior never before sited in the scientific literature. A challenge for investigators is offered with emphasis on the role firefly larvae may play in research into the genetic key codes which link and differentiate flash pattern to species.

    • Flash Keys in Fireflies by Terry Lynch: Impressions and considerations with reference to the role of nitric oxide (NO) in firefly flash and the implication this has with respect to the timed delay between flashes of species and other related flash behavior. June 29, 2001, 16:40hrs.

    • The Evolution of Synchronous Flash Behavior as a Function of Competition for Mates in Lampyradie: Photinus pyralis. By Terry Lynch. Studies made between 1968 - 1970 illustrate the various flash patterns of P. pyralis and suggest a theory to explain synchronous flash behavior in fireflies.

    • Firefly Notebooks: How to rear fireflies by Terry Lynch Techniques with respect to the collection, observation and rearing of the firefly P. pyralis and Photuris with notes upon the feeding behavior of Photinid and Photuris larvae and the implications these contrasting behaviors have on evolution of the species in fireflies. Presents photomicrographs, drawings, diagrams and methodology with respect to original research related to the rearing of fireflies.

    • Feeding behavior of Photinid larvae Model used to illustrate probably sequence with respect to predation of P. pyralis on earthworms.

    • Firefly Safe Zones: Strategies for Reintroduction, Preservation and Maintenance of Vigorous Firefly Populations

    • Firefly Sanctuaries: How to Preserve and Protect Firefly Habitats Terry Lynch presents simple actions people can take to help insure that our children's children will be able to see and marvel at the flashing of fireflies.

    • Tropical Fireflies Projects Terry Lynch is conducting a study of tropical fireflies and invites experts to come to Ang Tribu Bagobo Woodlands, Mindanao, Philippines, where a Firefly Research Center and sanctuary are being constructed in Lynch's honor by the Ang Tribu Bagobo people whose ancestors regarded fireflies as sacred.

    • Fireflies vs. Humans: More Alien than Alien: Which is the more alien species Homo sapiens or P. pyralis?

    • Photinus pyralis Gallery: Microphotographs of embryonic firefly and early instar larvae

    • Firefly Art Terry Lynch presents unique creations of Firefly Art.

    • GEO: Bioluminescent Springtails of Christchurch, New Zealand Original photo micrography of a little known species of bioluminescent Collembola, Anurida granaria (Nicolet, 1847) are presented to celebrate the beauty and splendor of this Springtail from down under. Site includes guest book, gallery, links and updates.

    • The Angel of Death This creature is Nature's ultimate weapon having killed more people than all the wars throughout history! It is irresponsible for the world community to accept over one million deaths each year due to mosquito transmitted disease and over 300 million people to be infected by malaria, dengue fever and other diseases through mosquito bites. You can help stop the slaughter and balance the equation by visiting and supporting the Angel of Life Foundation.

    • The Urban Jungle: Alien fungi and other wondrous flora and fauna of backyard America

    • Terry's UV Light Trap A design showing how to make a simple UV light trap for the collection of nocturnal insects.

    • The Firefly Gallery Help save the firefly! The proceeds from these charming design items will be used to support firefly studies and research and advocate preservation of the environment and fireflies.

    • Firefly Toxins, Lucibufagins, Bitter Tasting Agents May Serve As Deterrent To Substance Abuse General safety rules with respect to handling arthropods and providing a safe environment for children. By Terry Lynch

    • How to photograph fireflies by Terry Lynch Tips and tricks for the benefit and enjoyment of photographers and amateur naturalists

    • Firefly Flash Simulation: How to make firefly flash simulations for exhibit and display by Terry Lynch

    • How to save the firefly. Naturalist, Terry Lynch, asks everyone to follow these steps to help preserve and protect healthy populations of fireflies that our children's children may see spectacular displays of fireflies.

    • The Adoration of Arthropods Fireflies, insects and other arthropods as pets, live jewelry, objects of adoration and subjects used in commercial advertising and marketing for profit and/or exploitation.

    • Byteland You may find more great links to sites and work produced by Terry Lynch on Byteland.

    Make safety a priority when hunting fireflies

  28. What are the risks and dangers associated with studying fireflies at night; what weapons should a naturalist carry in urban, rural or wilderness areas?

    The risks and dangers associated with studying fireflies are much the same as they are in any other activity where living in a modern society involves survival and responsible behavior to insure one's health and welfare. There are, perhaps, some added risks to going out at night to hunt for fireflies, especially alone, which is why I recommend using the buddy system. When scuba diving or participating in any team sport, using the buddy system always reduces the risks, especially in the event of an accident or injury, as then there is always someone to help, be it to administer first-aid, and/or to call 911.

    As a young boy I was a scout and learned at an early age to be prepared accidents or injuries when camping, hiking, fishing, or otherwise enjoying the great outdoors. As a naturalist I would take the same precautions that any hunter or fisherman might take when enjoying their sport; that is to know first aid and have at had a first aid kit as well enjoying one's passion in the company of friends, family and associates. The same is true with respect to hunting for fireflies, be one just watching fireflies or photographing them. Having others to share your passion increases your safety, especially if you are traveling to more rural or remote areas.

    Many of my firefly studies were done in my backyard or on relatively safe university campuses or in relatively safe areas, such as state parks. Yet in recent years there has been much attention drawn to the fact that it only takes one person to cause hurt, harm or injury through an act of violence, even upon a college or university campus, which is an academic community regarded as relatively safe. Yet every campus owns its safety to having a good campus police force, which is also true of cities and other communities. Even very crowded and public places like shopping malls, have their own security.

    Having been exposed to the same media barrage as everyone else, which quite often focuses upon crime, I am quite aware that living or working in a modern society involves risk. Certainly there are risks associated with any type of work one does, and those risks go up if one is working alone, even if it is doing woodwork at home or climbing up upon a ladder to paint one's house. The risks always increase if you are working alone, which again is why I recommend using the buddy system. A man or woman increases their life span, at least statistically, if they find a spouse, someone they love, and live together. That's why insurance rates are generally less for a couple than for a single person. Of course a happily married couple that stays together until "death do we part," may be more of a rarity in these modern times, than they were in previous generations -- and you don't want to marry someone who one day will get so angry at you that they might kill you, either for another man or another woman.

    With this said, I do recommend that anyone working alone in an area where there may be risks to one's life by man or beast, be appropriately armed and skilled so that they may protect themselves. Since I was a young lad I always carried a scout knife and found this came in very handy if I needed to cut rope, carve a stick to roast a hotdog, or even cut strips of kindling to start a fire. Plus having a sharp knife helps with things like cleaning fish or cutting line, and I do so enjoy fishing; you can't eat fireflies, but you can bass or trout.

    Having hunted for firefly larvae in areas where there are rattlesnakes, water moccasins, poisonous centipedes and even alligators, I do recommend carrying a big hunting knife or even a machete. The wetlands of Florida are not without peril. On one occasion after camping in Ocala National Forest and bathing in the river in the morning, I looked down from a high embankment only to see a dozen or so huge alligators converging upon the point where I had just left the water. Fortunately I got out of the water just in time, or that might have been the last any would have heard from me. Given that I was completely nude and bathing, I would have been helpless had I been attacked by the alligators. It sent a chill down my spine just to look down and see them realizing that I was really lucky that day! Recounting this, I do not hesitate to recommend that one use the buddy system and take care to not do foolish things like going swimming in alligator infested water! Under such circumstances it would probably not do you much good to have any size cutting tool -- certainly a pocket knife would not likely be much of a deterrent to a dozen hungry gators!

    Live and learn. There are perils in the fields, forest and meadows, especially in more wilderness areas, and one increases their odds of coming home safe if they are prepared. For example, if traveling in bear country, certainly to travel in a group is recommended, and it does not hurt if that group includes skilled hunters armed to the teeth, especially if there is any probability that you may encounter a grizzle bear. Although there are no grizzle bears in eastern North America, there are black bears and wild cats. Plus there are chance encounters with that more wild of beast, man, who may not always have your best interest in mind. Hence each person must make a choice themselves if they want to get a firearm and a Conceal Carry Weapons permit should they deem this necessary for their adventures in more urban streets and jungles.

    When one hears about mass murders and shooting on college campuses and universities, where students or professors have been gunned down by psychopaths or mentally disturbed individuals, it makes a pretty good case for carrying a firearm. When you add to this the many rapes, muggings and murders that are common in metropolitan areas, it makes a pretty good argument for anyone planning to spend much time alone in the fields, forests or meadows to be properly able to defend themselves and take the time and effort to learn to use a firearm for self protection. That also means learning what type of firearm would be best, which certainly is an individual choice, and should be made with knowledge and intelligence, depending upon the expert advice of a knowledgeable firearms expert.

    I think it is especially important that women who are alone, be they hiking, camping, fishing or otherwise engaged in activities where there may be a risk of being assaulted or attacked by a predator, be it a four legged bear or the two legged kind, may be wise to learn how to use firearms. As for the best type of firearm for a woman or someone engaged in field work at night, an inquiry with respect to this matter suggested that the firearm of choice might be a .38 cal. Smith & Wesson Model 642 equipped with a lasergrip sight. This handsome firearm weighs only 15.3 oz. (433.8 grams), fires five rounds, and has a bright crimson laser making it ideal for use for personal protection even in low light situations such as one might encounter while in the field hunting and watching fireflies. Why I imagine with some practice one might even be able to pluck a firefly from mid-air with one of these honeys -- though that would certainly be overkill! Those who don't know me, please realize I speak in jest. :-)

    Now I'm sure there are some brutes who would consider the S&W Model 642 a "girlie gun." In that case by all means choose a .357 magnum. I won't recommend a higher caliber unless you are thinking about spending a considerable amount of time in bear country, say fishing for trout in Alaska or Canada. But don't misunderstand me, a revolver is not for hunting bear; its for protecting yourself from two legged predators. To hunt any wild animal you need a rifle, shotgun or perhaps a bow and arrow if you are a skilled archer. This is because you would be keeping a distance between yourself and any dangerous animals you might be hunting. Should a bear surprise and attack you alone in the woods, you will be lucky to get off a shot, regardless of how heavily you are armed. That's one more reason why in the wilderness you want to use the buddy system, for then there is a greater measure of safety.

    I suppose there may be some risk of being attacked by a bear if you were hunting fireflies, say in the Smoky Mountains or a similar local where black bears are common. But by far more likely is an imagined scenario where a woman may go alone to a rural area to watch fireflies and be stalked by a two-legged predator. One has only to look at national crime reports to see that rapes, robberies, muggings, even murders, are quite high in some metropolitan areas and adjacent suburban areas which may include good sites for walking, hiking or even watching fireflies. Yes, I know those making up crime statistics were not firefly watchers who were assaulted and attacked; but, they were victims none-the-less. Perhaps there would be less victims of violet crime if those taking the risk to venture forth in city parks would take along their friends and use the buddy system, even if it be just their buddies, Smith & Wesson.

    Firefly reports low in Alabama and Mississippi

  29. Why are firefly sightings low in Alabama and Mississippi?

    Did I just hear someone ask, why there are no fireflies in Alabama or Mississippi? Why is no one reporting fireflies from the twin states? Ah, that's a good question, one I cannot ignore.

    You see the economy in Mississippi is very low and in 2010 there is double digit unemployment in MS and AL. If people have a computer they aren't using it to report fireflies. In fact, I'm probably the only person in the whole twin states of Mississippi or Alabama who knows what a firefly is. Ask someone 'round here what a firefly is and they think you're talking about someone's prick on fire! :-) You got to realize this is the Bible Belt which extends through Mississippi and Alabama. There is a church on every corner and folks in this neck of the woods are more likely to see Jesus, Bear Bryant, or Elvis than a firefly! If they do own a computer they probably use it to play games, look at porn, or cyber -- they aren't making firefly reports. Those who are out at places where you might see fireflies, like at state parks, are in their RV's, campers, or tents watching football or wrestling on TV while they drink a six pack of their favorite beer, playing with themselves, their wives or kids. If they do step out the camper to take a piss and see a firefly, it's a religious experience for them and they think they've seen an angel! Add to that the West Nile virus paranoia, the over spraying for mosquitoes, and the light pollution coming from street lamps, houses, billboards and sports parks, it would be a wonder you'd get any firefly reports from this neck of the woods, given the one person in the whole state who knows a thing or two about "flaming pricks" is me!

    Of course since the advent of the Internet and social networking sites, firefly watching has become more popular. In fact, publication of my own studies of fireflies on-line may have been a great boost in helping to educate and inform people about fireflies and the fact that in may places they are disappearing, that there is need to take action to preserve and protect firefly habitats and to Save The Firefly

    It was after I began Firefly FAQs that I began to hear from people around the world and the nation, asking questions about fireflies. Some were even graduate students who needed help and guidance. Others were doing some aspect of firefly research and sought my advice. Then a group associated with the Boston Museum of Science (MOS) began a Firefly Watch? project. This has helped spark interest in fireflies and has been of educational value in teaching people how to collect meaningful data related to their firefly sightings, that collectively the cloud of data gathered may give a more clear view of fireflies and enable mapping them or analyzing that data to more clearly understand how fireflies are being effected by changes in the environment. Now more and more people are doing what I've been doing for years -- watching fireflies and searching for creatures which glow!

    When the Boston MOS Firefly Watch program first began I was a bit pessimistic about it; after all, I'd been watching fireflies for years. What could I possibly learn from these amateurs? But I decided to try it out and so chose a site and began making firefly sighting reports. I was quite amazed and surprised at how many other people were participating and enjoyed discovering all the different places people were seeing fireflies. Then something happened. The site were I was watching fireflies was bulldozed to the ground. All the trees were piled up and burned. Grass was planted so that people could walk or jog along the lake for exercise. One more firefly habitat was destroyed! It was an eye opening experience, both sad and frustrating. Yet I resolved to continue my firefly watching and advocate for the preservation of fireflies by establishing Firefly Safe Zones.

    It is true. I've been not only watching fireflies but studying them seriously for many, many years. If I want to know something about fireflies I go out into the woods and ask the fireflies. I observe them closely, take photographs, record their behavior on video or in field notebooks, and even design and conduct controlled experiments. Hence I've gained a great deal of knowledge and behavior about fireflies. This has put me at the front of the line, at the top of the mountain, making me somewhat of a firefly Guru. :-)

    When it comes to understanding fireflies I probably know more about them then anyone else you will ever meet. That's not bragging; its fact! Ah, but I realize there is always more to learn and discover, that the unknown is always infinitely greater than the known. So I continue my quest to learn more about fireflies and hope that I may be able to share my knowledge and love for fireflies with YOU!

    In fact, I established INSECTA as a way to help others identify fireflies with some degree of certainty. If you love watching fireflies and want to be more certain what it is you are looking at, just swoop your insect net and catch a few and send them my way. Adult fireflies only live long enough to mate and lay their eggs, so catching a few for identification or research purposed does not hurt the general population. What really impacts fireflies are when the forests are clear cut, when mountain tops are removed for mining, or entire wetlands are destroyed by dragline operations. So if you have some fireflies or other insects you would like me to identify for you, please send them to INSECTA. This will also help various aspects of my own firefly research, so instead of the fireflies dying and just rotting, they will contribute to a good cause. For one thing, I want to make more SEM imaging studies of the various fireflies found all over the world. Who knows what discoveries this may bring?

    Can firefly watching really make a difference? Can a group of people who report their sighting of fireflies really contribute anything of significance to our understanding of fireflies? Initially I was skeptical of the Boston MOS Firefly Watching program. I thought these folk were just a bunch of amateurs most of whom were not even born when I first started observing, experimenting and inquiring about fireflies to learn about their behavior. Besides, while I was out swooping an insect net, catching fireflies, recording their flashes, observing and studying their behavior, everyone else was inside, always watching television, enthralled by this or that popular program, hit series or ball game; those not watching TV were shopping at the bright glittery malls, oblivious to the wonders of nature, seduced by television advertising to go shopping and spend all their money on whatever the commercials were telling them to buy. I was the only one in the twin states seriously watching fireflies then ... and still am to this day. Then I realized how cynical this was. Why now others were becoming interested in the love and the passion of my life! Others all around the country were taking notice and interest in fireflies, in creatures which glow. Others were beginning to see and experience the same fascination with fireflies that I had known for many years. Why this was wonderful! Now I was not so alone, not the one looked upon as odd or different because I ran around with an insect net catching bugs. I was now a firefly Guru, and people wanted to know what I knew about these wondrous creatures which glow that I must search for.

    Yes, I confess, I'm the original Big Bang Theory Sheldon Cooper firefly nerd, geek type character. Why I chuckle every time I watch that program; it is the best! The characters so remind me of myself, at least the me before I expanded my horizons and became more interested in the Big Picture. Throughout much of my college years I was interested only in science, in learning all about nature and creatures which glow. Then after my dear brother Stephen died suddenly, my life was forever changed. I branched out and became more interested in pursuing not only my interests in science and fireflies, but the Fine Arts. It's a good balance to have, as the Arts enable one to explore and express their dreams, to expand their imagination and be creative, while science brings some sense to the fanciful that instead of magical thinking and irrational decision making, sound and logical reasoning empowers one to actualize their dreams. Thus I'm NOT your typical Bible Belt creationist who whole heartily believes that God created the world (including fireflies) in six days for the benefit of man and on the seventh day rested.

    Now don't get me wrong, there are a lot of very good, nice, friendly God fearing people in Alabama and Mississippi, but they ain't likely to be out watching fireflies when the sun goes down. City folk might take a stroll or jog round the blocks for exercise, to walk their dogs, or even stroll about with their neighbors to do a little gossiping 'bout what they saw on the soups or Oprah, but they ain't talking fireflies. Should they be out at the state parks where one would be likely to see fireflies, they are cooking barbecue, watching TV, or humping. I repeat, they ain't watching fireflies. Should they be out and about in a state park at night, it is probably only while attending a brightly lit park hosted event, like the Karaoke gathering I once had the pleasure of attending upon a summer's eve at Wind Creek State Park in central Alabama. Campers had gathered amid bright stadium lights singing gospel, bluegrass, country or POP music tunes. Around the lights were clouds of thousands of moths and beetles, hypnotized by the light, blinded and driven mad, many tumbling to their deaths. As the carnage went on those gathered sang Amazing Grace, not realizing their sin, least bit noticing any fireflies that may have survived what surely to fireflies would be analogous to a thermonuclear blast!

    I'm the only one I've ever seen in all of the great twin states of Alabama or Mississippi who every paid much attention to fireflies, much less took them seriously. Why people in these parts are afraid of the dark, believe the Devil is hiding under every rock, and that evil spirits lurk in the shadows. When the sun goes down they stay inside, lock their doors, turn on the TV and escape into the one-eyed tube monster. Fireflies are the last thing upon the minds of anyone in the Bible Belt. If they aren't thinking about Jesus, praying to God, or singing Amazing Grace, then they are watching wrestling or football, getting drunk or stoned, humping in the back of a pickup truck, making babies or whoopee.

    I guarantee you, I'm the only one in the whole twin states of Mississippi or Alabama who has ever spent much time outside at night watching fireflies long enough to know what their flashing is all about; in fact, since most people don't realize it isn't just about romance, but is fierce competition, what I like to refer to as FIREFLY WARFARE, I'm probably the only one in the whole country, who has seriously studied fireflies long enough to discover this fact. Others have glimpsed the dance of fireflies, romanticizing about them, even recorded and analyzed their flashes. Some have dabbled long enough to learn to decipher and identify a few of the flashers, even discovering fireflies eating other fireflies. But even given this less than subtle hint, they failed to realize that firefly flashing isn't so much about romance as it is FIREFLY WARFARE, an extreme competition and conflict, a battle of light which acts as a way to create and establish a social network to connect and aggregate a species, or in the case of Photuris, to confuse, deceive and destroy the enemy, which are those tribes and armies of fireflies, the Photinids, which tend to flash in synchrony and act not as singular organisms, but are united by their flashes into a social network, all fireflies of a conquered territory congregated and aggregated by a network of flashes which, when they come to reign supreme, may flash in mass synchronous displays, Gods of their domain, crying with each synchronous flash, VICTORY!

    Yet these great synchronous flashing displays are observed less and less. This is largely due to a number of factors: (1) the destruction of firefly habitat; (2) extreme light pollution which turns night into day, not only in large urban areas, but in small cities, rural areas, as well as in some state parks; (3) the over spraying for mosquitoes; (4) the turning of fields, meadows and forest into great asphalt and concrete urban jungles; (5) the pollution of air, water and habitat with insecticides, herbicides, and other forms of toxic chemicals emitted during the burning of fossil fuels or other industrial processes; and (6) the deforestation of large areas by clear-cutting, and (7) the destruction of entire mountain tops, forests and wetlands by dragline operations which rape the landscape and turn vast areas into moonscape. It is a carnage, a mass extinction in progress! Thus one is compelled to ask, will our children's children be so fortunate as to see a single firefly in their life times; will future generations be so blessed as to ever see the mass synchronous flashing and displays of fireflies which occur only in virgin forests untouched, unmolested, not yet raped by man?

    Perhaps, then, the reason firefly reports are so low in Alabama and Mississippi is that I'm the only one in the twin states who takes studying fireflies seriously. I don't watch fireflies to report them; rather, I study fireflies to learn about them to satisfy my own curiosity. For years I kept journals and notebooks of my firefly studies, long before the Internet became popular and certainly long before the Boston Museum of Science started a Firefly Watch program. I've been watching fireflies since before the MOS in Boston existed! I report my firefly sightings to no one, least perhaps to God! For don't forget, I've done most of my firefly watching in Dixie where God is still alive and well watching over everyone. So I suppose my firefly studies are well known on the other side of the Pearly Gates! :-)

    That said, now that some are calling me Dr. Firefly and sending me fireflies to identify, now that other around the nation and the world are finally taking notice of fireflies and the fact they are disappearing in different parts of the world, I feel a bit like Moses. Perhaps the cries that I have been making in the dark have been heard. Indeed, that may be why there is a growing interest in watching fireflies. People are starting to listen to the Firefly Guru and seek their own creatures which glow. Thus that work I have done has made ripples; the candles I have lit have been seen and now others are lighting candles and echoing the call to SAVE THE FIREFLY. Perhaps if enough people start watching fireflies and establishing Firefly Safe Zones, then on the next tomorrow our children's children will be able to look out into the night and see the dancing lights, those marvelous, magical twinkling lights which are the fireflies at love and war!

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    Visit The Firefly Gallery to see more great firefly gifts and apparel and our latest updates. If you have a firefly site and need content, you may download any of our great firefly gifts and apparel pics and post them on your site with links back to The Firefly Gallery. You may also link to this Firefly Emporium by using the HTML code

    You will adore these lovely gifts and apparel which feature great firefly designs creations with some very delightful, fun slogans. Just pick from this great collection of favorites firefly gifts and apparel. We accept major credit cards and PayPal. Plus every purchase will help maintain this great firefly site.

    Please help raise awareness and save the firefly by drawing attention to this critical concern with these high quality original graphic designs produced by naturalist, Terry Lynch. Many of the designs were produced from original sketches, graphics or caricatures. Each gift and apparel item is a high quality product which will bring you much satisfaction and enjoyment.

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    Photinus pyralis in synch.
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    Who Said Humans Were Superior? Perhaps fireflies which can produce light and fly about to locate a mate are superior to humans who are for the most part unenlightened.
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    Fireflies Make Me Happy!
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    I (Heart) Fireflies
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    I Love Fireflies!
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    Save the Fireflies!
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    Fireflies Are For Lovers!
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    Fireflies Catch & Release
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    Firefly Enchantment: 256 synchronous flashing fireflies!
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    The Firefly Goddess: 9 synchronous flashing fireflies.

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    Firefly Goddess: 36 synchronous flashing fireflies
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    Love Aglow: 42 synchronous flashing fireflies
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    I (Heart) Fireflies: 42 synchronous flashing fireflies forming a heart
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    I Love You Firefly Heart: 21 synchronous flashing fireflies forming a heart
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    Firefly Mosaic: 672 synchronous flashing fireflies forming hearts in 16 tiles
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    Firefly Company A: Features 128 synchronous flashing fireflies. The ultimate insect collection for home or office!
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    Click on pic to buy gifts and apparel featuring these great firefly creations.
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    Firefly Wizard

    Creatures which glow
    I must search for

    Save the firefly

    I Love Lightningbugs

    Fireflies Rule

    Firefly Lover!

  30. Why do you study and rear fireflies and how can I support your work?

    Many people have asked why I study and rear fireflies and/or how they may support my work.

    I have a passion for the study and learning about fireflies and other bioluminescent animals and plants. This is driven by an a deep curiosity to know and understand about life and the universe.

    My concern with respect to rearing fireflies is NOT for commercial applications, but so that they may be reared and studied genetically to establish the relationship between behavior; i.e., flash pattern and mating behavior, and genetic code variation. I am primarily concerned with the rearing of fireflies in the laboratory and their study in nature. Learning to mass rear fireflies will enable great strides to be made in medical and other applications of applied research and will help protect natural populations which have become endangered through the exploitation by large chemical companies which place bounties upon fireflies.

    Others have suggested applications in agriculture, as to control snails; their entertainment value, as in enclosed firefly habitats which tourist might pay to see; or, their introduction to an area which, for one reason or another, does not have fireflies.

    Although all these applications may be possible, my primary concern is with the pure scientific study of fireflies, to learn about their behavior and share my discoveries with others for their enlightenment and enjoyment. As an artist I also incorporate fireflies into graphic art and design and believe that the usage of fireflies as a positive focus image may stimulate the economy, the same as is done by such other graphic icons as Teddy bears, dinosaurs and Mickey Mouse!

    If you want to help support my firefly studies and related work, please purchase items from the Firefly Emporium or make a donation to support Project Firefly. Thank you!

  31. What is Project Firefly and how can I contribute to this important project?

    Project Firefly is an independent, not-for-profit, unincorporated project dedicated to the research and study of fireflies and sharing information about fireflies and other bioluminescent animals and plants with people everywhere. Please visit the Project Firefly home page. If you are doing research or any type of serious studies related to fireflies you may be listed on the Project Firefly home page and network via the Project Firefly Forum:

    Support Project Firefly and This Site

    One of the primary goals of Project Firefly is to motivate people worldwide to study fireflies and help those interested in the study of fireflies to network and share their knowledge, experience and discoveries. You may support Project Firefly in a number of ways:

    Please make a donation to support this project. Donations of any amount are acceptable and will be applied to the research and study of fireflies and educational, on-line publications or Internet sites related to said firefly studies and/or other natural history, educational or informative projects. Donations of any amount up to $10,000.00 will be greatly appreciated. The following items are also needed: new computers donated by companies or individuals; new or used pickup truck in good condition with trailer hitch, new or used van in good condition, new or used RV's to use for field work, new or used Airstream trailer. Please contact Terry Lynch to arrange the donation of computers and/or vehicles. Suggested donations are: $5.00 student, $10.00 individual, $20.00 family, $50.00 business, $100.00 corporation, $500.00 benefactor. Donations are considered a gift to a private individual and are NOT tax deductible. There is a $5.00 minimum consultation fee due upon receipt of any personalized help via email. If you have received personalized help in the past, please realize this took time and effort and return the favor by making a $5.00 or more donation to Project Firefly. You may make donations via Byteland Enterprises to support this site. Thank you for your consideration and support.

    Please help by making a donation to support Project Firefly. Click on the link below and make a secure donation of any amount. Thank you!

    You may also help by purchasing design items feature on Blinks and Links or available via our sponsor in the Firefly Gallery. Thank you for your support.

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    T-shirts, sweat shirts, jerseys, mugs, caps, clocks, posters, framed prints and much, much more!..........Save on bulk orders!..........Shop on-line at the Byteland Art Gallery!..........Available only through! is the largest on-line publish on demand service in the USA!

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Associated Sites

INSECTA | Lynch Photos | Amazing and Spectacular SEM images of fireflies | Firefly Warfare | Firefly Keys | Dr. Firefly | Save the Firefly | Firefly FAQs | Firefly Emporium | Firefly Flash Simulation | Blinks & Links | How to rear fireflies by Terry Lynch | Firefly Gallery | Ang Tribu Bagobo Woodlands | Firefly Watching | Go Green | Petathon | International Conservation Network | Sci-Tech Designs | Butterflies Are Magic | International Slug Fest | International Spider Fest | International Butterfly Fest | Project GEO | Support This Project | Terry's Firefly Sites & Links | Contact the Author

Copyright © 1999 - 2014 by Terry Lynch. All Rights Reserved. The photographs, illustrations and copy written material on this site is the original work of the respective authors/photographers. If you want to reprint or use any of this material you need prior written permission. Please contact Terry Lynch if you would like to use any of this material. Thank you for your consideration.