Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fireflies in the Summer

I enjoy sitting on the front porch in the evening when the fireflies/ lightning bugs come out. There is something magical about that. The scientific family name, Lampyridae, comes from the Greek "lampein," meaning to shine … just like a lamp --- a chemical called luciferin (note the same Latin root as Lucifer meaning shining light) inside their abdomen/tail combines with oxygen, calcium, and adenosine triphosphate, and a chemical reaction occurs that creates their spectacular light, I read. I watched a pair of males(the ones with the bioluminesence) move all around around a neighbor's front yard last night about 9 pm, about 18 inches apart in devilish synchrony, their flashes coming every 5 seconds or so showing off for the females hiding in the bushes and grass. Always about 18 inches apart, the two of them in the dusky shadows. Biologists suspect this is mating behavior, a firefly mating dance exhibition, a first and only date in a choreographed and abbreviated courtship, because shortly thereafter, those two fireflies were making lightning bug love with their respective honeys in that grassy forest! The lightning bug season is short-lived here, though, and lasts but a few days or weeks, if that, and their brief fling on this planet lasts but about two months. As children, we caught them and put them in glass jars with lids we'd poked holes in. We used to watch them for a while and then let them go. Sometimes, in a sacrifice for science, we'd smash one or two to see the bio-luminescence on the sidewalk gradually fade away, and wonder how that worked. Sad to say, they are gradually declining as civilization plows, poisons, and paves over their habitat.


Blogger Mary Campbell said...

"Lightning bug love" -- such a sweet phrase that is having the unfortunate effect of implanting the awful Captain & Tennille song "Muskrat Love" firmly and possibly permanently into my brain. In 20 years of living in the Arizona desert, I never saw fireflies except when traveling in the mountains.

6:31 PM  

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