Firefly facts: a better way to impress friends.

By Don SalvatoreWho doesn’t love fireflies?

Except Mean Matthew who, when we were kids, would squish the glow-in-the-dark goo out of them and wipe it on his neck to show off.

(Don’t try that at home, kids. This was before real glow-in-the-dark jewelry was sold, and, frankly, Matthew’s probably serving time now.)

Hey Matthew, here’s a better way to impress your mates this holiday weekend.

 

I scooped this off the Museum of Science’s FireFly Watch website. The FireFly Watch is a citizen science project designed to combine “an annual summer evening ritual with scientific research” in an effort to track the fate of fireflies. There seem to be fewer today than there were in the past. Might be due to pesticides in lawns or human-made light.

To better assess the situation, scientists need our help tracking these little guys and gals. If you’re interested in participating, log on and start counting how many fireflies are in your neck of the woods! You can learn how to tell them apart and you can watch drama unfold waiting to see whether or not the female will accept the male’s proposal to mate. Matthew: there’s even a picture of fireflies mating on the site.

Here are those fast facts to impress your friends:

Male fireflies flash while patrolling an area. If a female is impressed, she answers him by flashing from a perch, either on the ground or at some spot above ground, like a shrub.

It is up to the female to decide if she wants to mate with a particular male; if she doesn’t respond to his flash, he cannot find her in the dark. Hmmm.

When attacked by a predator, some fireflies shed drops of blood (hemolymph) in a process called “reflex bleeding.” The blood contains a chemical that is distasteful and even toxic to many predators.

Many more fun facts and details on FireFly Watch can be found here. I just signed up. Happy counting and happy Fourth of July!

  • Ame Goldman

    Very interesting comments about the fireflies. I have just recently noticed that when my daughter and I are walking around at night, we are not seeing as many fireflies…I wonder if the male fireflies have not been working out, and the females are keeping mum?

    Counting fireflies is going to be a fun project to do with my daughter this summer!

    I do have two questions:

    I read somewhere about a shortage of bees. Not that I really mind that there are not as many bees buzzing around my food at the park or pool, but is there a shortage?

    I live in the city, so my bird watching primarily is that of the french bird pyjohn, or more commonly known by their street name PIGEON. Why do we never see baby pigeons?

    Look forward to knowing the answers!

    Ame

  • Ame Goldman

    Very interesting comments about the fireflies. I have just recently noticed that when my daughter and I are walking around at night, we are not seeing as many fireflies…I wonder if the male fireflies have not been working out, and the females are keeping mum?

    Counting fireflies is going to be a fun project to do with my daughter this summer!

    I do have two questions:

    I read somewhere about a shortage of bees. Not that I really mind that there are not as many bees buzzing around my food at the park or pool, but is there a shortage?

    I live in the city, so my bird watching primarily is that of the french bird pyjohn, or more commonly known by their street name PIGEON. Why do we never see baby pigeons?

    Look forward to knowing the answers!

    Ame

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