Lightning bugs, also called fireflies, belong to the order Lampyridae. They are famous winged beetles that illuminate brightly during the dark night hours till early dawn. Their light is yellow, green, or red in color, and is actually their mating call. It is also produced in order to attract their prey.
The lights that these little insects produce from their abdomen do not have any ultraviolet rays or infrared radiations and have a wavelength range of 510 to 670 nanometers. There are more than 2000 species found all around the world.
The eggs hatch within 3 to 4 weeks and the larvae are produced. They are fed till the end of the summer. The larvae are called 'glowworms'. They have simple eyes whereas the adults have compound eyes. Lightning bugs overwinter (spend their winter) during the immature or larval stage.
They hibernate by burying themselves in the ground or hiding under barks of trees until spring appears. After some weeks of feeding, the larvae turn to pupae, which is also called the pupal stage. They remain as pupae for merely 1 to 2 weeks and then emerge as adults.
Larvae of most species of lightning bugs are 'specialized predators' and feed on other larvae, slugs, and terrestrial snails. Some larvae are so specialized that they deliver digestive fluids directly on their prey, making them physically broken. The diet of the adult bug is variable.
They find food on plant nectar and pollen, though some of the species are said to be predators. Scientists are not entirely sure what these insects eat. Lightning bugs are not edible and most of their species are distasteful. Sometimes, they are poisonous to their predators too.
Most of the 2000 species are nocturnal and hence are mostly active during the night. Their habitats are especially all the small water bodies within dense woods and in decaying debris. They like to hide in the shrubby and overhanging trees and areas having high grasses during daytime.
There is a huge biodiversity of lightning bugs in central and south America and tropical Asia. Sometimes, they are found under logs and rocks of the dense forests as well. Hence, it can be inferred that they a like warm environment and are found in more temperate regions.
These are regions having lots of vegetation and plenty of moisture. Regions having water streams, ditches, marshes, and ponds are their preferred habitat.
Some More Facts
Lightning bugs or fireflies are not flies and neither are they bugs, but they are beetles that can produce light. They can light up during all stages of their lives, including larvae and pupae. In some species, the eggs glow as well.
In the immature stages of their lives, they emit light when they are disturbed, which scares off their predators. During the adult stage, the lights are emitted to attract the opposite sex for mating.
The lightning pattern and color, and time of lightning varies according to the species. That makes it easy for them to find a mating partner of their own species.
For a mating call, males fly and make their presence felt to the females, while females settle on the trees. This is an easy way for them to find their mating partners.
Light production is nothing but a chemical reaction called Bioluminescence that occurs through special light emitting organs. The enzymes called luciferase and luciferin are combined in the presence of oxygen, ATP (adenosene triphosphate), and magnesium.
Catching these insects and keeping them in a glass jar can be a great game to play, especially for kids. One can release them as soon as the day begins. Today, due to several reasons like pollution, deforestation, and overpopulation, their numbers are decreasing rapidly. There is an urgent need to save their habitat in order to stop them from going extinct.