Why Do Fireflies Glow

Why Do Fireflies Glow | Chances are you will come across a firefly flickering through your backyard this summer. This shimmering insect has been intriguing humans throughout time. Sadly, most have no idea about why this unique creature generates the most efficient light in the world.  

Notoriously known for its radiant glow, the firefly abdomen gives off a chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This glow is caused by an extra oxygen electron that’s responsible for creating a flashing light. These soft bodied beetles can be seen floating around during early summer months in Tennessee. Chances are you won’t come across too many fireflies during the daylight hours. Before the sun sets you may find them nestled into tall grass areas protected and resting up until their night time launch. Fireflies have a short life span, of about two months, so they have a lot to keep them busy during the night hours.


Tennessee Firefly Light

Firefly light is the most efficient light in the world. 100% of the energy is radiated as light energy compared to the heat energy of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. Fireflies contain a chemical in their abdomen called Luciferin, a heat resistant chemical. Scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold light” because there is no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies.


How Do Fireflies Attract Mates

The main reason fireflies flash is to attract mates. Nighttime is the time for romance in the world of fireflies. Males and females flash signals back and forth as a way of communicating. The flashing light pattern helps attract mates. If a female sees a flashing light she will respond by flashing right back signaling she is ready to mate. After mating, the female lightning bug lays around 500 eggs into the damp ground. Fireflies thrive in humid regions with moist conditions similar to the climate here in Middle Tennessee.


Fireflies Warn Prey

Firefly light does more than attract mates; it warns away predators, informing them of their unpleasant taste. Furthermore, fireflies also use their bioluminescence to attract prey, including other fireflies to feed upon. Once the firefly completes the mating cycle it has completed its life mission and no longer needs to eat at all.

Another fascinating fact is that firefly luciferin chemicals are being used to help in the medical field.

Luciferin light helps detect specific enzymes in the brains of living rats which could someday offer scientists another window into the human brain and identify brain tumors. Also, when the chemicals from fireflies are injected into diseased cells, they can detect changes in cells that can be used to study many diseases, from cancer to muscular dystrophy. Amazingly electronic detectors built with firefly luciferin have been fitted into spacecraft to help detect life in outer space, as well as food spoilage and bacterial contamination on earth! Who would have known this little bitty insect had so many fascinating facts!


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