Christmas (lights) in June

The fireflies have been numerous and active the last few nights. I am aware that there are much better images of firefly lights on the internet – but I couldn’t resist posting these. Although entomology isn’t my specialty my best guess is that these belong to the genus Photuris, and are very likely Photuris pennsylvanica … the state insect of this Keystone State. It may interest you that the luminescence is caused by the combination of two chemicals, luciferan and luciferase, and that the combining of these materials is under the nervous control of the animal. [By the way fireflies are beetles (Coleopterans) and are neither flies (Dipterans), as in firefly, nor bugs (Hemipterans), as in lightning bug.] The lights are generated by both males and females as sexual signals. Certain Photuris females are known as femme fatale fireflies because of their habit of mimicking the mating signals of other species as a way of attracting males as meals. If you look carefully at each of the photos below you can make out the flight paths of certain individuals. [Half way down on the left side of the top photo you can see 6 – 8 flashes all in a row …. don’t know which way the animal was going … if movement was to the right the flashes are dim and then very bright … if movement was to the left they are first very bright and then dim.] Finally, the collection of flashes which define a brief moment of flight seem to mimic the constellations. What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Christmas (lights) in June

  1. Thanks for posting this one, Dave. You have a knack for posting the best of what Pennsylavnia has to offer, all the things I miss most. Fireflies are certainly on the top of the list.

    • So, this means I shouldn’t be posting about the drill rigs on the hills behind us? We can’t see them … yet … but they’re coming. The most recent term for ‘them’ is Drill-inator – what do you think?

    • Absolutely. I was going to write about the influence of lawn treatments on firefly populations – but thought better of it. Apparently chemical treatments and pesticides negatively impact the eggs and larvae of these wonderful creatures. Let us both hope they have the strength to weather yet another, human, storm. Sorry to be so negative. Thanks for commenting – they surely make me think of summer too. They’re just like magic aren’t they? D

      • I know, for every wonderful thing in our world, Man has managed to make a mess. Honeybees, bats, birds falling from trees, we act surprised to learn that they are impacted by our actions. It’s hard to not be angry when you see where this will lead. Hopefully we will keep some of the magic!

        • Yeah … progress at what cost? In the end, long after our species is gone, the Earth will recover and be well. Thanks again for your thoughtful contributions. D

  2. I had no idea this was our state insect but it makes me happy. If the slower-moving individuals are constellations then the speedy ones are comets! Beautiful picture. The fuzzy gray background makes it look exactly like it feels to be out at dusk catching them in a jar.

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