Fast Fact: Lightning Bugs

Have you ever stayed up late on a summer night to catch lightning bugs in the dark? Lightning bugs, which are also called fireflies, light up to help them find a mate. But not all lightning bugs can light up. We’re lucky that the lightning bugs in our area do, otherwise we wouldn’t get to catch them every summer. They are able to light up by using special organs in their abdomens that produce light. When they take in oxygen, they combine it with a substance called luciferin, and the reaction produces light.

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There are many different species of lightning bugs, and different species produce different colors and patterns of light. Males flash a certain pattern, and females flash back their own pattern in response.


When you catch lightning bugs, be gentle. If you are collecting them in a jar or container, make sure it has holes to let air in. Don’t keep them for more than a day, and make sure to release them at night, when they are naturally active.


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