Friday, August 17, 2007

Flight of the Firefly

With August rapidly coming to a close, I must give a shout out to the fireflies who have kept me company since April. Never in my life have I seen so many and it appears to be a phenomenon related to the immediate neighborhood.

Observing them every evening wafting up in droves from the ground, has caused me to wonder about their biology. I’ve learned that they are first of all, not flies but winged beetles. Here’s their life cycle:

Larva stage: up to 1 –2 years they live underground as worms. The worms are also luminescent; hence the glowworm. At this point they eat grubs, slugs and snails.
Pupa: 10 day period of living in a mud hut before emerging as
Firefly! At this point, life is short; a few days to a week. The emergence of beetle stage starts in spring and tails off in August.

Apparently not a lot is known about why they give off their light; most likely a mating dance. The chemicals luciferase and luciferin that make them glow is used in a number of ways by scientists in diagnosing and researching diseases. The chemicals have also been used in spacecraft to look for life in outer space, as the firefly’s luminescence cocktail is a particularly effective detector of another chemical, ATP, found in all basic cells on earth.

Bringer of beauty, joy and light. Disease fighter. Outer space explorer.
All hail the little firefly.

No comments: