We were watching the lightning bugs outside and he, of course, was asking about their lights. Why to they do that? How do they do that?
I gave him a "those are good questions look" and said, "Mommy is not sure. Lets ask Mr. Google." So, when your kids are staring at these amazing little bugs at night, you can be all the wiser. Here are the answers:
Neurobiologist Dr. Barry A. Trimmer was the lead author of a paper in the Journal Science in which he finally revealed the secret of what makes a firefly glow. The secret is nitric oxide. This is a dissolved gas that lets the firefly's nervous system switch on its flash of light. Most fireflies produce short, rhythmic flashes.
In a complex arrangement between nerve cells, light-producing cells, and an enzyme-assisted reaction, the firefly's lantern emits that greenish glow so common in the early summer twilight in some parts of the world. We must add of course, that even though scientists now know what makes the firefly glow, the whole complex arrangement shouts that only the Master Creator could create and put together such an amazing little insect in the first place.
Flashing Lightning Bugs are trying to attract mates. Among most but not all species of North American Lightning Bugs, males fly about flashing while females perch on vegetation, usually near the ground. If the female sees a flasher and she's ready to mate she responds by flashing right after the male's last flash. A short flash dialogue takes place as the male flies closer and closer, and then, if all goes well, they mate.
So that a flasher doesn't attract a firefly of a different species, each Lightning Bug species has its own special flash pattern. Flash patterns range from continuous glows or single flashes, to series of multi-pulsed flashes.
Among some species both males and females flash, but among others only the members of one sex do it. Some Lightning Bug species don't flash at all. All known firefly larvae, which are wingless and mostly live on the ground and under bark, produce light. If you see only a glow on the ground, it can be tricky deciding whether you're seeing a firefly larva, a glow-worm, or some other luminescent insect.
What was the first question your child asked you that made you say, "I am not sure?"
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