Fireflies: A Synchronized Light Show

Posted on September 9, 2015 by Dr. Lynda

The sounds and smells of summer can bring powerful memories to mind: crickets chirping in perfect sync, screen doors slamming with a bounce, and the smells of cut grass and charcoal grills. But there is one unique visual that conjures a particular kind of wondrous memory: the dancing lights of fireflies at dusk. In Tennessee Fireflies are abundant, here’s a quick look at just how amazing summer truly is.

Image: fireflies in abundance

I can close my eyes at my desk right now and remember sultry summer evenings with cousins and friends, collecting for science after we heard the rumor that someone, somewhere, would pay us a penny per blinking bug.

Did a certain memory of these beautiful bugs pop into your mind and bring a smile to your face? Fireflies are somehow unifying in that way. No matter where or how we grew up, catching lightning bugs is a special activity that crosses all the social strata. If you have an open lot, park, or backyard and can find a jar with a matching lid, then you can enjoy a summer’s evening collecting these tiny wonders of nature at any age.

Take a look at this piece with Lee Cowan as our guide on the  CBS’s Sunday Morning show. Here’s a place in Tennessee that honors this delight of nature in a special way:

Lovely fun. Beautiful sentiments in that video. Thanks Lee!

And then the video sent my mind wandering: how much do we know about these special creatures? Not much when I stopped to think about it! So I went in search of a little science to round out our appreciation for this summer spectacle. Take a look at this:

I had no idea! Thanks to Science Friday for that bit of insight.

If you liked knowing a bit more about the backstory of fireflies, you might like visiting Science Friday. They have podcasts and videos that my teenagers enjoy without my nagging at them to find someplace insightful on the web! (Now that’s high praise!)

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~ Dr. Lynda