JUNE 2016: I enjoyed a fascinating article by Melissa Breyer (at Treehugger.com) about why firefly populations are diminishing in some areas (“What’s Happening To The Fireflies?”). It prompted me to republish the post below from 2013 and to read up on these fascinating little creatures.
Fireflies are a bioluminescent species because they can produce their own light. A chemical reaction within the firefly’s light organ produces the light: when an enzyme called luciferase is present, oxygen combines with calcium, adenosine triphosphate (ATP—the energy-carrying molecule of all cells), and a chemical called luciferin (See “How and why do fireflies light up?“). The resulting light is thought to be the most efficient light in the world, with nearly every speck of energy in the chemical reaction emitted as light. Industrial researchers have found many other uses for the enzyme luciferase, and even though it can now be produced synthetically, fireflies are still harvested to extract the enzyme, contributing to the decline in the firefly population. If you’re still curious, you’ll enjoy “14 Fun Facts About Fireflies.”
Here in the rural Shenandoah Valley, we’re fortunate to still see an abundance of fireflies, but not as many as a generation ago. Do you have fireflies where you live? Have you noticed a change in how many you’re seeing compared to several years ago?
SUMMER 2013: Last year, I saw my first firefly on June 1, but it took another week or two before they became very conspicuous. One night towards the end of June, I got up in the night and looked out the window. Fireflies—millions of them—were illuminating the trees along the edge of the woods like magic sentinels. It was breathtaking and inspired me to write the following poem:
Message of the Fireflies
Orbs of night
Like fairies flickering in the evening
Harbingers of summer
Punctuating the dusk with sparks of light
Beacons of love
Intent on only one thing: to perpetuate the species
Inspirations of God
Listen to the message in their silence:
Dazzle the world with your brilliance!
Shine to light the way for others!
Love with every fiber of your being!
Do what you were born to do!