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Fireflies Are Brightening Up the Night Sky

Updated: Jul 11, 2019

Lightning bug season is here, and these glowing bugs are the perfect reason to ask your parents if you can stay up past your bedtime.

Photo via Shutterstock

Warm summer nights are the best time to catch lightning bugs. All you need is a jar or plastic container. Just make sure to have your parents poke some holes in the lid so your prized catches can breathe. And be sure to release the bugs before you head in for the night.

We love lighting bugs because of their famous glow. This ability to light up is called bioluminescence. Lightning bugs are the most well-known creature with this ability, but they aren’t the only one. Most of the other animals that can light up live in the oceans. There are fish, jellyfish and even bacteria that have this ability too.

Here’s some more information on these summertime favorites.

Fun facts

You might call these bugs lightning bugs, but some people call them fireflies. Both terms refer to the same insect. In the eastern United States, most people say lightning bug. In the western United States, most people say firefly. In many parts of the country, including here in the Midwest, people use both terms.

Fireflies aren’t actually flies. These insects are winged beetles.

More than 2,000 species of lightning bugs exist, but not all of them light up.

Lightning bugs have special organs in their abdomens that make them light up. The bugs take in oxygen that combines with a substance called luciferin. The reaction causes the glow.

The lightning bugs we see produce a yellow or yellowish-green light. Some species of fireflies produce orange, reddish or bluish light.

The flashing lights these bugs produce is how they communicate. The male bugs emit the flashing light to attract females for mating. The females then signal back to the males with their own light.

Each species of lightning bug has its own unique light pattern that it uses to communicate with its own species.


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