It is August and even though the lightning bugs are on the decline there are still species out there making our late summer nights magical!
Sidewinder Lightning Bug (Photinus brimleyi) in the woods south of Birmingham, AL.
So how many species are out there??
Lightning bugs (or fireflies) are in the family Lampyridae which belongs in the order of beetles (Coleoptera). There are about 2,200 species of lightning bugs throughout the world that live in temperate and tropical environments. There are even species that are not bioluminescent and are active during the day! In the United States and Canada there are about 170 species of lightning bugs. Each species is adapted to a specific environment and when conditions are just right for them, the adults emerge from their pupa stage and start to fly around.
Lightning Bugs of the US
Adults are active for about 2-3 weeks flashing, mating and laying eggs. The eggs hatch in about 2-3 weeks and the larvae move around on the ground eating things like snails and other invertebrates that can be pests! The larvae are wild looking and can live 1-2 years! I get a lot of lightning bug larvae identification questions, and you can see why, they look like aliens!
Lightning Bug Larva (Pyractomena sp.)
Some male lightning bugs have a specific flash pattern to attract females of the same species, so they can find each other to mate. In fact, folks have created a phone app to identify species of lightning bugs by their flash. There are even lightning bug species that can imitate signals of different species falsely attracting them to mate, but instead will eat them! That's right some lightning bugs are predacious feeding on other species!
The above collage are just a few of the species we have run across over the years! Their diversity, like all insects, is quite amazing! That is why they get their own soap at Arthropod Apothecary, Lightning Bug soap.
Lightning Bug Soap
Hope you find lots of bugs in your back yard,