Fireflies are one of the many magical parts of summer – the polka-dots of light blinking in the darkness on a warm night. There are approximately 2,000 species of fireflies around the world (150 of them in North America). Some do not even light up at all, but of those that do, each has their own unique pattern of blinking; it is a form of communication. The light helps the fireflies find potential mates. The ones we see flying around are usually males looking for a female. The females wait in the grass or bushes until they see something they like; then they will flash back…like, “Hey, I’m over here!” The two will continue flashing at one another until the male locates the female and they mate. Scientists also theorize that the light may be a warning to predators that they don’t taste very good.
Interestingly fireflies, also called “lightning bugs,” are not flies nor are they bugs. They are beetles… bioluminescent beetles. How do they do that, you wonder? It’s a chemical reaction. Fireflies have light organs under their abdomens that contain an organic compound called luciferin. When a firefly takes in oxygen it combines with the luciferin and creates the glow. The firefly can even regulate how much air they take in to create their lightning pattern!