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5 Facts You Didn't Know About Lightning Bugs

Firefly

Summertime brings fun, sun, and lightning bugs! These glowing bugs light up at dusk and create a beautiful summer landscape. Here are some fun facts you may not have known about lightning bugs:

1. Lightning bugs (or fireflies) are actually beetles!

The Photinus pyralis, the most common type of lightning bug here, is a winged insect in the beetle order Coleoptera.

2. Lightning bugs use bioluminescence!

Bioluminescence is an amazing function of light emission by living organisms. It's a chemical reaction involving the light-emitting pigment luciferin and the enzyme luciferase. (Think of deep-sea fish like the angler fish.)

3. The light in adult lightning bugs is used for mate selection!

This light gives the signaler info about the quality or species of the mate.

4. Lightning bugs flash their lights in synchronized patterns!

One species in particular, the Photinus carolinus, actually flash their lights in synchronized patterns! This happens all over the world, and every year in the Great Smoky Mountains, when thousands of fireflies display a light pattern. Watch a video here!

5. Some lightning bugs have no lightning!

There are diurnal species that fly during the day and use pheromones, rather than bioluminescence, to attract mates.

And there you have it! You are now an expert on lightning bugs, so grab a mason jar and go out back to catch some (just don't forget to release them after you study them)!

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