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)