FIREFLY

Bug Index

 Assassin Bug

Bigeyed Bug

Firefly

Bumblebee

Damselfly

Dragonfly

Giant Diving Beetle

Giant Stoneflies

Giant Water Bug

Ground Beetles

Honey Bee

Lacewings

Ladybird Beetle

Mealybug-Destroyers 

Millipede

Pirate Bugs

Praying Mantid

Predatory Mites

Rove Beetles

Sowbug

Syphid Fly

Tachnid Fly

Yellow Jacket

 


When people see flashing lights in a wooded or marshy area, or even in a field, they are looking at fireflies. Worldwide there are over 1900 species of firefly and they are found on every continent except Antarctica. There are over 170 species found in North America alone, with most  of them living in the eastern half of the continent.

Because of its role as a producer of light, the firefly has been immortalized in art. The only song about an insect to top the popular music charts was "Glowworm" - about firefly. Poets have also written about the magic of the firefly. Robert Frost wrote in his poem "Fireflies in the Garden". The magic of cold, living light production by fireflies has fascinated scientists for years. Understanding the chemistry of firefly light has resulted in the life-saving glow sticks that duplicate the light production system of this insect. Luciferin and luciferase are the chemicals that give fireflies their lights. Since being discovered in firefly, these chemicals have also been used in medical research on such diseases as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Fireflies are thought of are beneficial insects. Not only are they one of the great wonders of nature, making our summer evenings more exciting, but they are also predators (both as larvae and adults). They live on slugs, snails, and the larvae of a number of destructive insect pests of crops.

Identifying adult Boreal Fireflies during the day is tricky. The Boreal Firefly is about 10 mm long, and fairly flat. It has flat black front wings and an area right behind the head that is broad and black with two broad yellow stripes down either side. The last two segments of the abdomens are a pale yellow color, indicating that it is one of the light producing species.

Fireflies are out from late May to early July. The Boreal Firefly lives close to water as the larvae feed largely on snails. They can be seen flying over marshes, in river valleys and anywhere there is sufficient water to support snail populations. The firefly's light is used as a way to attract a mate, each species having its own distinctive signal. During the day,  light producing fireflies are usually inactive, resting on the vegetation. As stated earlier, not all firefly species produce light, and these species tend to be active during the day and will often come to goldenrod or aster flowers.

Fireflies are actually beetles! Fireflies are not really "flies" as entomologists know them, but are beetles in the family Lampyridae. Most known firefly species are bioluminescent as adults. 

Trying to identify the various species of fireflies can be a real challenge. However, it is easy to distinguish the species that produce light from those that do not, because as the non-light producing species lack the pale yellow segments at the tip of the abdomen.