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!