Fireflies have astonished the human mind and imagination for centuries. They have embraced nicknames such as”lightning bug,” or”glow worm.” When we experience them, they seem to be small light bulbs that float in the air, blinking to inaudible music and captivating our eyes with mystique and wonder. They have taken their place in human myth from ancient Mayan culture to contemporary Japanese and synchronized blinking, which happens in many diverse places around the world, create a feeling of inquiry and amazement.
For those of us who are more objective in our reasoning, we might ask ourselves, what is the mechanism behind the wall of wonder and how has it come to be?
Fireflies are largely nocturnal creatures with soft and brown bodies, even more leathery than traditional beetles. Their act of creating light in the gut area is referred to as bioluminescence, which describes, quite well, the process used to create the hypnotically titillating visual spectacle.
The light is formed through a chemical reaction which occurs in the body. This interaction between both of these chemicals generates the energy necessary to give off light.
There are two chief reasons why fireflies glow at night: mating and imminent danger. Since there are some 2,000 different kinds of fireflies around the planet, the light patterns emitted are specific to its particular kind. Once a match is found, mating can occur. After mating, the eggs are placed in damp soil, where sowbug-like larvae will hatch in 3 weeks. These infant fireflies live for up to two years under floor, hunting and preying on earthworms, snails, slugs and mites.
Fireflies are very efficient light producers. Their ability to generate light in a cost-effective way has sparked numerous research and development projects in the area of bioluminescence, regarding its possible human applications. To put things into perspective, the efficiency rate with the fireflies use to produce light hovers around 90%, where as the average household light bulb has a rate of nearly 10%.
Fireflies are interesting not only because they capture our minds and spirits, but also because they may function as a key to better and more efficient energy conservation.