Skip to Main Content

Breadcrumb

  1. Illinois DNR
  2. Outdoor Illinois

Lightning Bugs 

June Nature Notes: Create fond childhood memories with fireflies. 
By: Bridget Hinchee 
Most of us have at least one childhood memory involving filling a jar with fireflies caught on a warm summer evening, and wondering in awe how and why these mysterious creatures blinked their magical lights.          

While other insect species may use scent or sounds to communicate, the more than 200 species of fireflies found in North America rely on the rhythm of their flashing lights. Fireflies produce this cold light through a chemical reaction occurring in specialized cells called photocytes located within their abdomens. The light is then made visible by specialized reflector cells which intensify and direct the bioluminescent energy created.          

Blinking patterns emitted by each species of firefly is unique and communicates a desire to mate between the sexes. Female fireflies often sit in the grass waiting to mimic the flashing pattern produced by a male of her species. They will continue to return one another’s blinking pattern until their connection is made and mating has occurred.          

Our fond memories ended with a bit of disappointment when the contents of the jar had to be released, yet each of us knew something so special was not meant to be contained for long. Ask a child to help you create another memory, and spend a summer evening together revisiting your youth.


By Bridget Hinchee, Natural Resources Coordinator, Argyle Lake State Park