The other day, the Blonde in the House and I were contemplating the hot, humid Florida weather – while we sat in air-conditioned comfort. She remarked that she recalled summers in Pennsylvania when she and friends used to catch lightning bugs (fireflies for the purist). They would put them in a glass jar with punctured holes in the cap. They would watch them for a while and then let them go. I did the same things in my Pennsylvania youth. However, we did not hunt fireflies together. We lived about sixty miles apart and never met until I finished graduate school. When we did meet, I never thought once about lightning bugs, and I trust that she didn’t either.
What The Blonde may not have been aware of is that the fireflies are neither flies or bugs. They are beetles with little hard-shell bodies sort of like a small roach. At least the ones we caught were. However, there are many varieties of the good old firefly. There is one variety that grows to be the size of the palm of your hand. Man, if you had to catch them that size back in Pennsylvania you would need one heck of a large bottle – with extra sized holes in the lid! In most cases though they aren’t that big and most of their lives are spent in the larvae stage. In that stage they are mean and ferocious. They eat snails (along with the French), slugs and even worms. Apparently, they are selective with worms as they do not seem to eat their close relative – the glowworm.
Perhaps they are proud because the glowworm had a song written about them. Do you recall the catchy tune that went “glow little glowworm, glow”? Well, perhaps if you were born after the 50’s you don’t, but it was right up there on the hit parade. That undoubtedly made the lightning bugs proud, and perhaps they hoped that someone would write a song about them. I bet today that one of those rap artists could come up with something along that line. It might even be better than what appears on the charts today! Actually, the beetles definitely need something to cheer themselves up.
The adult fireflies in many species do not even live that long. The ones in Pennsylvania would last only a couple of weeks. They would not eat, but would spend their time fooling around, laying some eggs and then pass on. The eggs don’t even hatch until about four years later. Obviously, that means that any you put in a jar in 2020 will not have little ones until 2024 or four years after they have left for good. That is one bummer of problem when some of them want to have a family reunion. On the other hand, that does mean that the little ones don’t have to kiss Aunt Snail-eater. In addition, they will not have to listen to the elders expound on how rough it was during the pandemic of 2020!
We must not forget that the really big thing about fireflies is that some species glow in unison. That is if you have a nice dark night you can sit and watch hundreds and even thousands put on a light show. In fact, every year there is the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival in the Allegheny National Forest. Nobody ever told me that when I lived not that far away so I never attended, but perhaps you might want to put it on your schedule for a fun evening. I think they even have the Fred Waring Chorus and Orchestra sing “Glow, little glowworm, glow” as part of the presentation.
It’s a pity they never wrote a good song about fireflies!
Barry Evans writes about “Life in The Villages” for Villages-News.com.