Wow! Oh, what a night!

Is it me or has the night erupted in sparkling and twinkling stars right on earth!

This is a great year for fireflies! I think they enjoyed our long and lingering wet spring and hot, humid summer.

You do know that they aren’t flies at all! They are beetles! They can fly and have two sets of wings. The outside set is hard and acts like a shell to protect the beetle.

Since, fireflies lay their eggs in the soil a drought can almost wipe out the next generation or two. The larval stage also lives underground munching and munching and growing and growing….did I mention that the eggs and larvae also glow???  Some evening when you are far from a light source go out with a flashlight covered by a red filter and roll over a log or dig in the softer soil by the marsh or wetland. Give it a minute and Bam! There they are! Just glowing and growing!! Many species when they become adults don’t eat much or even at all! They are too busy glowing and looking for love! Looking for love is the whole reason they glow! If you have some patience find a comfy spot and just observe the same spot (of course at night!). As the evening gets darker and time goes on you’ll notice that there is a pattern to their flashing and even different colors! Each species has its own color and flash pattern! That’s how they find each other and make sure that even in the dark they can find the same species!

Fireflies do talk to each other, besides love…..they emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. In most, however, both sexes glow; often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees, shrubs and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she’ll signal it with a flash of her own. Believe it or not there are some species of fireflies that eat other fireflies! They learned how to flash the other’s signal lights so it fools the males and when they land just grab and go!

Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.”

An adult firefly lives only long enough to mate and lay eggs—so they may not need to eat during their adult life stage. The larvae usually live for approximately one to two years, from mating season to mating season, before becoming adults and giving birth to the next generation.

Til next time!

Mary Kozub
AOF Board Member

Mary has worked for McHenry County Conservation District for 16 years and has been a “founding” member of the Village of Lake Zurich’s Tree Commission for 20 years.