Have you seen the fireflies, or lightning bugs depending on which part of the country you are from, flying around your yard recently? They are quite fascinating, even magical appearing, having inspired all types of legend and lore.
Fireflies are a beetle in the order Coleoptera. There are many different species and their defining characteristic is their ability to chemically produce flashes of bioluminescence. The ones that you see flying are males who are attempting to find a female located in the grass or other low vegetation. Females are watching for this signal and then answer with a responding flash to show the males they are ready to mate. The signal is also a warning to predators as most fireflies are quite toxic if eaten. They contain a chemical that is similar to the poison found in some toads.
There are firefly species that are also capable of producing flashes of light in the larval stage. If capable, they are referred to as glowworms. In this larval stage they are predators, often feeding on snails and slugs. Adult fireflies primarily fed on pollen and nectar.
It is fun to watch, and even carefully catch and release, fireflies with children. They are a fascinating part of nature and can present a wonderful learning opportunity for you and your children, grandchildren or neighborhood youngsters.