Fireflies: The Real Tinkerbells
One of the most enchanting sights of the season is the delicate light of Fireflies blinking in the night. Found on every continent around the world except Antarctica, these graceful little stars put on a magical show each year that would make even Tinkerbell jealous!
If you've been lucky enough to see them, you'll know that fireflies or lightning bugs can be seen in meadows, near marshes, fields and backyards in the eastern U.S. and parts of Canada. Unlike some other insects, fireflies are no bother to us humans. They don't sting, bite, attack or carry disease.
But what's really going on out there in the dark? What do all the blinking lights mean? And how do fireflies generate the light we see? There's so much more to learn and admire about fireflies than just a mini-Fourth of July light show. Read on--you'll be amazed!
Firefly Morse Code: "I'm Your Love Bug!"
But just who's doing the flashing? Who's watching? What are they watching for? And what do the flashes mean? One purpose of the flashing is thought to be a signal system for attracting mates—like a Firefly Morse code for "Hey, baby! I'm the light of your life, check me out, let me be your Luvvv Bug!"
Entomologist Susan Weller from the University of Minnesota tells us that male and female fireflies have different roles in this flash dance:
The firefly's light source is not located where you might think. In fact , the light source on these tiny lanterns is located on their behind or posterior—close to the tip of their abdomen. Poet Ogden Nash seemed to have noticed this when he wrote this limerick .
Studying Firefly Flash Patterns
Take a closer look at Marc's research, and see if he has unlocked the code behind the fireflies' signals:
Fireflies seem to have such a peaceful way of communicating with each other. The male blinks his half of the code and the female answers with her half of the code, and hopefully they find each other and mate. But, sometimes things aren't what they seem. Flash patterns can also be used for another purpose—luring unsuspecting prey. In a process called "aggressive mimicry," some female species of firefly will actually imitate another species' flash pattern or code in order lure the male of that other species in for a meal—except HE'S the meal! Other than hunger, what reasons can you think of why a female firefly might prey on and eat a male firefly?
Try This! Journaling Questions
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