The Light of the Fireflies

Fireflies sound like something from a fairytale, except that they are real. Our obsession with fireflies is not new. We fell in love with them long before Owlcity's song was even released. We know they light up our rooms, and lives, but most of us are not aware of the fact as to why this phenomenon occurs, or the origin of the light. Here are a few facts about fireflies and their beautiful lights.

What is the phenomenon actually called? This act of producing, as well as emitting lights by a living organism is called 'bioluminescence'. Yes, it has a name! The light is produced as a result of complex chemical reaction, when the enzyme lusiferase acts on luciferin, in the presence of magnesium ions, adenosive triphosphate or ATP, and oxygen. If you are wondering why the words 'lusiferin' or 'luciferase' sounds oddly similar, it is because both of them were derived from the Latin word, 'lucifer', meaning 'bringer of light'. Well, it makes sense now, right?

Where is the light produced? The light that emanates from the fireflies is actually produced in their lower abdomen! Yes, when the fireflies glow in all their glory, and you try to follow the light, you are technically going straight for their abdomen. Now, that might not count as a total ab-workout, but atleast now you know the location of the lights.

Some light on the lights: The colour of the lights may vary according to the species. They range from yellow, green or a pale red. But a species found in the eastern US, Phausis reticulate, can boast of a steady blue light. I can't blame that species if they tend to think a little highly of themselves. Also, the emission of the lights usually comes from various sources, or fireflies, as the larvae sometimes emits light, the larvaeform female in some cases, or simply the eggs does the trick!

Cold lights, and the pattern: The fireflies actually produce a cold light, if you were wondering about the type, and there are no traces of ultraviolet frequencies. Sounds eco-friendly to me. But maybe not too friendly, as the lights can be used for different purposes. For female Photuris fireflies, the lights are simply the means to prey on unsuspecting males, earning them the nickname 'femme fatale fireflies'! They mimic the flashes of other bugs, and the males mistake it for a mating ritual, and a dinner date probably, where instead they become the dinner. But then, this is not all to the lights. In most cases, the lights are used to select a suitable mate, and is sexual in nature. Also, fireflies in Southeast Asia are found to operate in sync within their groups, as they create a rapport with the rest of the group with the synchronized flashing or steady glows. This happens in large groups, and is known as 'phase synchronization' or 'simultaneous bioluminescence'. Apart from Southeast Asia, The Great Smoky Mountains in the US, is also famous for the firefly fireworks. Guess 'you would not believe your eyes, if ten million fireflies' decide to glow all at once, so we have provided a YouTube link of the same below!

There are around 2000 species of fireflies to be found. And no, fireflies are not flies. They are beetles. You can call them magic beetles, or fairylight beetles, if you want, or anything which makes you happy, as you watch them light up your little world, or your mundane moments, as they shine under the night sky.

Post Written by - Lopamudra

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