Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Animal of the Week: Lighting Bugs

The look so plain and uninteresting in the daylight, but come dusk, lighting bugs reveal their special magic.

Lighting bugs, or fireflies, are insects with six legs, three body parts, and wings. They are actually beetles.

Male lighting bugs emit flashes and glows to attract females. In some species the female glows as well. The light is greenish-yellow, yellow, blue or in some species even reddish. The pattern is specific to each species. Lighting bugs like to live near marshes or other wetlands and can usually be found flashing within a few hours of dusk.

Ok the wicked cool thing about lighting bugs is that their light is without heat. It is a chemical process using an enzyme called luciferase. This is the same chemical that causes the organisms in a Red Tide to flash.

Catching lighting bugs is a fun summer ritual. Since they like wet areas, lighting bugs are often found with mosquitoes. If you use bug spray be sure to wash your hands before catching lighting bugs. Handle them with care.

Put the lighting bugs in a jar with a lid that has holes for air circulation. Don't keep them long -  no more than overnight - they are busy and won't live long in a jar.

If you want to participate in Citizen Science, consider Firefly Watch from the Museum of Science in Boston, MA. We have done this in our home for years and it is an excellent introduction to Citizen Science for kids.

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