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How to Attract Lightning Bugs

Updated on July 11, 2013

The Lightning bug also known as a firefly is actually a member of the beetle family. They are Bio-luminescent, which means they have the ability to produce light. Not only are the beetles themselves bio-luminescent so are the the larvae and the eggs. Firefly larvae are found in wooded areas and thrive in rotting wood as well as in the edge of ponds in marshes and some ditches. They live in moist areas until they are ready to turn into fireflies. Firflies come out at night because hey need some moisture in the air to survive.


Bioluminescence is the ability to produce light. The firefly is able to do this through all stages of development. A chemical reaction creates the light but scientists are unsure how the insect is able to turn the light on and off. The chemical reaction consisting of Luciferin (a substrate) combined with Luciferase (an enzyme), ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and oxygen is said to cause the light. Theories about how the light is turned off and on is limited to two theories. Theory number one has to do with getting oxygen to the photic organ to light it. Theory two has to do with the insect being able to turn the light off and on by using their nerves. remarkably there is no heat given off due to the light. By comparison the light bulb gives off only 10 percent of light while 90 percent is given off as heat.

The light of course is used to find a mate.  A female will look for a light close to the ground.  She will flash immediately back if she see a light she is interested in.  Then a sort of dialogue takes place until they move close enough to each other to mate.  There are many different species of lightning bugs, so there are many different types of lightning bug flashes.

Attracting fireflies

Fireflies like places t have trees overhanging a wooded area or tall grass They also like dark places so decrease amount of light outside by turning them off. If you want more fireflies also decrease the amount of pesticides you use. It is also recommended that you don't cut your grass as often to keep the fireflies around. Fireflies love overhanging trees or a similar place where they can rest during the day. Fireflies as larvae like to eat snails, slugs or earthworms. They have also been known to eat dead animal carcasses. Fireflies also love rotting wood or forest foliage. As adults they have been known to eat nectar from flowers and each other! It is reported that Female Fireflies will blink their light ot attract an unsuspecting mate and eat him! Adult Fireflies otherwise do not eat anything.

Types of Fireflies.

There are literally thousands of species of fireflies! I will go over the more commonly known ones here. Photurinae fireflies are the ones most commonly found in North America. There are three type of species that comprise the most part of the group. Photinus are the most common of the group. These guys are alos known as Big Dippers. They are half an inch long and produce a yellow green light. These fireflies are the ones you find most often in your back yard! The flash of a big dipper does not even last a whole second!

The Photuris fireflies are also known as the femme fatale firefly. They are about an inch long and have a greenish yellow light. These fireflies often mimic the photinus female fireflies lighting sequence. When an unsuspecting Photinus male firefly comes by, they get ate!

Pyractomena are the last type of firefly in this species. They have a little light that looks as if it is a spark from a fireplace!

Are Fireflies dissappearing?

Are fireflies disappearing? A lot of experts say yes they are! Humans are unfortunately a part of the problem. Paving roads and construction destroys a lot of the habitat. Even light Pollution is to blame! Lighting up the night can prevent fireflies from going out and do what they do best! Too much light at night can interrupt their flash patterns so they cannot communicate with one anohter.

Summer of 2013

I live in the Mid Atlantic states and feel that there are more fireflies than in the past several years. Are you seeing more fireflies this summer than average?

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How do you catch a firefly??

One of the best memories of my child hood is going in the backyard and catching fireflies. Something about being little and being outside at night was exciting at the time. I find myself having the same feelings as I teach my little one about this simple summer pastime. To catch fireflies there are several techniques. First you must go to where the fireflies are. If you are going to your backyard reduce the lighting so that fireflies will light up. When you see a blinking light approach it slowly as so not to scare it away. Then you can try to catch it with a jar and a lid. Or you can cup your hands together and catch it lightly. My son catches them with a butterfly net and then puts them in a jar or his bug house. Please take care to release the fireflies soon after they are captured.

 SO now that you know a little bit more about the firefly, find your youthful spirit and go out and catch some


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub on how to attract and catch lightning bugs. Very beautiful and useful. Voted up!

    • clothespinnedlove profile image

      clothespinnedlove 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Just wrote an article on how to capture these buggers on camera. Love the article you wrote on them here, lots of good info!

    • jimmylesaint profile image

      jimmylesaint 5 years ago from Metropolis of Life

      Fire flies and glow worms, i am introducing them to my daughter now back in my hometown. Such a pleasure, so many memories:)

    • Dame Scribe profile image

      Dame Scribe 8 years ago from Canada

      I love watching these bugs while driving or sitting outside. They do make the nightscape more magical. :)

    • profile image

      rotnrotsmom 8 years ago

      I live in Southern Arkansas and we have been wondering why there were NO lightning bugs this year? We have noticed for the past several years they were becoming less and less. This is very wet(swampy)country and perfect for them but alas our young children are growing up without seeing or having fun chasing light bugs !! Any ideas ??

    • Ms Chievous profile image

      Tina 8 years ago from Wv

      I think the apppeal to this hub is that it brings back childhood memories. My son and I go hunting lightning bugs every chance we get. Thanks for stopping by Mom, Leslie, and Shamelabboush!

    • shamelabboush profile image

      shamelabboush 8 years ago

      Fantastic and wonderful bugs. If you attract enough of them, you won't need any kind of light on your porch :)

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      I found myself oddly intrigued by this one. I think it has to do with the way you told the story. Good job.

    • AllMomNeeds2know profile image

      AllMomNeeds2know 8 years ago

      My daugher loves fire bugs, she calls them. Can't wait to share the info. :)