The Lightning Bugs Are Back

Right on time, the lightning bugs are back in Pittsburgh.

Lightning bugs, or fireflies, are beetles that spend the majority of their lives as larvae.  We don’t really notice them until they become adults and fly around flashing their luminescent abdomens.  In Pittsburgh they begin doing this in June(*).

One species, Photuris pennsylvanica, happens to be the State Insect of Pennsylvania.  Its larvae hibernate underground or under bark all winter and spend their days there too, only emerging at night to feed on soft-bodied insects, worms and tiny snails.   The larvae can glow, but they do not fly.

The adults are not as predatory because their primary goal is to find a mate which they do by flashing.

The females flash “come here” from a prominent perch while the males fly around looking for a responsive female — and flashing their signals as well.  When they find each other, they mate.

For us, fireflies are pure joy.  They don’t sting or bite and they create beautiful light shows on summer evenings.

I might not be wild about bugs but I do like fireflies!

p.s. If you want to see lightning bugs in your yard, don’t use pesticides on your lawn and garden.

*p.p.s:  Readers in nearby counties have been seeing lightning bugs since Memorial Day.  I didn’t notice them in the city until last night.  Is there a difference in timing or was I not paying attention?

(image from video on YouTube)

4 thoughts on “The Lightning Bugs Are Back

  1. Once witnessed a firefly mating frenzy at Fort Necessity. Literally thousands of fireflies all blinking in synchroization! So bright you could read a book by the light. Really left kids and adults awestruck and silent 😉
    Each species of firefly also has it’s own blink pattern. Our local stars blink in an reversed J pattern with the blink beginning at the top of the J and then descending to the curve.
    There’s aslo an old trick to attract fireflies with a small flashlight. Hold the flash light close to the ground. Watch for a firefly flash. Count two seconds and then shine your flashlight for one second. This mimics the insect’s flash.


  2. How delightful to go outside and watch these delightful creatures! We have 2 large Maple trees in front yard and one in the backyard. They all look like they have hundreds of those blinking Christmas Tree lights on them at night. Soo much fun. Thanks for the information about our “state bug” Kate…

  3. It really says this is a lovely summer night. I remember meeting students from Arizona and Idaho. They were young adult mormons come here as Missionaries. They were all excited and amazed when the fireflies stated their “blinking season”. These girls had never seen them before. So apparently the fireflies are here in the east and not in the drier west.

  4. I didn’t realize that Pittsburgh was that much later than Lancaster County. We’ve had Fireflies here for weeks. I guess the topography probably makes a big difference, since the difference in latitude is insignificant. I liked the video, I never realized how much time those insects spend tidying themselves up for the ladies. Sometimes I think that Insects are some of the more cleanly than a lot of more appreciated animals. I guess when there’s that much bias against you you have to be your best :).

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