• HDT Team

Fireflies Forever

Appreciate the little things in life. In this case, the little things are literally little! Fireflies (otherwise known as glowworms or lightning bugs) are common throughout Minnesota, especially in areas with long grasses, from mid-June to mid-July. These soft-bodied beetles can grow to be 1 inch in length. So big!! If you’re lucky, at night you can catch a glimpse of their lights going *blink blink.*

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/03/climate/fireflies-mating-light-pollution.html


Biology

So, how does a firefly light up? What gives them that extra spark? It’s caused by a chemical reaction called bioluminescence. In the bug’s lower abdomen there is a specialized light emitting organ. In the organ the enzyme, luciferase, acts on the luciferin when magnesium ions, ATP and oxygen are present. This process is what causes the firefly to light up! Pretty cool, right? The primary reason fireflies use their light is for mating selection. Whichever male puts on the best light show will attract the most females. To learn more check out the video below! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOEBQBjCnQg&ab_channel=WisdomLand)


The Future of Fireflies

Unfortunately, the future of fireflies isn’t looking too bright. Although scientists are not completely sure why, light pollution and habitat loss are most likely big factors. Fireflies have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, so biologists are racing to save them. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Sara Tufts, professor of evolutionary and behavioural ecology at Tufts University, says, “if there’s a place with firefly biodiversity or abundance, try to preserve that habitat.”

  2. Reduce light pollution. This includes turning off lights during firefly season, and reducing the use of pesticides.

  3. Report firefly sightings. If you see a firefly, snap a picture of it and upload it to either Firefly Watch or iNaturalist.

https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/facts/firefly


Helping At Home

Want to know another easy way to help fireflies? Creating a firefly habitat is a great way to attract fireflies to your yard, and help increase the population. Here’s some tips & tricks to get started!

  • Turn off outside lights at night.

  • Logs and leaf litter are great homes for firefly larvae.

  • Create water features on your property. Even the smallest body of water is a good habitat for fireflies.

  • Instead of pesticides, use natural fertilizers!

  • Consider incorporating long grasses into your yard. During the day, fireflies stay hidden on the ground, so activities like mowing disturb them.

  • Plant trees.

  • Talk to your neighbors! Every little bit counts, and the more people that invest their time and land to this, the more fireflies we can help!

Written by Mari Hermerding