I recall starting a topic on these little creatures a couple years back, but thought I'd do a sequel this year. These bioluminescent members of the beetle family have always been a link to my childhood as they have for many others now in adult years. It's obvious they hold a special place in the hearts of many people, even having a website dedicated to their preservation - Firefly.org | Firefly & Lightning Bug Facts, Pictures, Information About Firefly Insect Disappearance - giving info on how to keep their numbers from dwindling and how to help bring their numbers back up if they have.
As a child, I didn't think of fireflies, or lightning bugs as they were called where I grew up, in terms of different species, or even different genders. A lightning bug was a lightning bug...period! As kids, we'd see smaller fireflies which tended to stay more in the woods rather than open grassy areas and think they were babies. Other fireflies only had light emitting organs on part of their tail instead of the whole tail being yellow. We thought they had some kind of defect which caused their light to not form completely. Now I know we were actually noticing different species/genders of fireflies - not baby or defective ones. Every kid in the neighborhood had a jar or some kind of clear container for the annual ritual of catching them. Early dusk was the best time as you could see them flying around even without their lights flashing. As it became darker, you could only spot them when they flashed. I would always let mine go the next day so they wouldn't die being cooped up. A few kids were more cruel and would swat at them to kill them, or would pinch off their light and stick it on their finger pretending they were wearing a ring. A firefly is one insect I could never purposely try to harm or kill.
This June, as with every June, I see these harmless little beetles giving off their light show and it takes me back to childhood years once again. Now, with more knowledge of them, I try to identify the different species which inhabit the woods and yard around our house. Fortunately, we live in an area where light pollution and development hasn't hurt their numbers, and our yard in mid-June is alive with flashing lights! At early dusk I see the familiar species I caught as a child, dipping and flashing all around the grassy parts of our yard. Later, as it gets dark, another "shift" of fireflies seem to take over. These more nocturnal ones appear to be of at least three additional species. One type is smaller, and these fly very quickly flashing their light like a miniature strobe light. It's a wonder the mate has a chance to answer as fast as they move along. Another species has a longer light sequence making a bright yellow streak in the dark night as they fly. Both of these two stay closer to the ground. Yet another species are seen high up in the tree tops flying and flashing late into the night.
With this Summer moving along, I could see where this year's generation of fireflies are quickly dying out. The little kid in me just couldn't resist going out at dusk to once again enjoy these marvelous creatures close up while some were still left. My son had to laugh seeing me out in the yard "playing with the bugs". I stooped down in the grass near the woods and watched as they flew around me, a couple going over my head to get to the lawn areas behind me. Instead of being nearly 60, I was a child of 6 again. Always amazed me that they don't fly away from people as other winged insects do. Every now and then I'd cup one in the palm of my hand as it flew close. Then let it climb up a finger tip to take off and continue it's search for a mate after the slight interruption. A couple I could see were nearing the end of their lives as they could only fly a short while before plopping down on a blade of grass, others were still strong enough to continuously fly around. However, just a precious few more days and they'll all be gone for this season.
But, happily I know a new generation will be back again next year to put on another show, and the kid in me will be waiting for their appearance. Using info from that firefly site, I'm going to do what I can to help preserve them for future generations of children to enjoy. Without these fascinating insects to watch each year, IMHO Summer would lose something very important for young and old alike.