7 Sparkly Facts About Fireflies

Hot summer nights when twinkly lights flash on and off amongst the tall grass and trees elicit feelings of nostalgia. Adults remember their carefree childhood years running around with neighbors, chasing the delightful bugs that come out when darkness settles. Little kids love catching these delicate fireflies in their tiny hands, and then releasing them back into the dark sky. Insect-lovers will enjoy learning everything there is to know about how their lights work and the way they use them to communicate. There are so many interesting facts about fireflies to share with children next time they head outdoors to chase these beautiful bugs.


Fascinating Facts About Fireflies

Once you have piqued the interest of your little ones by reading children's books about fireflies, they will want to head outside to observe these insects in action. Here are some interesting facts to share about these little luminaries to further satisfy their curious minds.

(1) There are more than 2,200 species of fireflies!

Scientists have documented thousands of species all over the world living in predominantly temperate and tropical regions. In the United States and Canada alone, there are more than 165 different types. It's likely that many more will be discovered over time. Only some of these insects, which are part of the beetle family, actually glow. In fact, those in the western part of the United States do not have the ability to produce light.

(2) The light on a firefly is the result of a chemical reaction that occurs within the light organ.

Adenosine triphosphat, oxygen, calcium and luciferin mix with the presence of an enzyme called luciferase. So although it looks like these bugs are powered by a tiny battery, it's actually chemistry that creates the light.

(3) Fireflies flash their lights to communicate.

Using a tiny organ called a lantern, fireflies emit light for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the flashing light serves as a warning sign to keep predators away. Other times, the light is used as part of a mating ritual. For instance, males use their light to attract females who are watching and waiting in nearby vegetation. When the females spots a male firefly of the same species flashing his light, she emerges from her place of hiding to engage. Lightning bugs have also been known to synchronize their flashing lights, although this is a rare event. It is associated with mating as well, where groups of male fireflies flash in unison to attract partners.

(4) Fireflies are dropping in numbers in areas with dense populations.

Just like other wildlife, the biggest threat to the future of fireflies is the loss of their natural habitat. Commercial and housing developments are replacing  trees and natural vegetation that they need to thrive and survive. Outdoor lighting in these areas prevent them from seeing their flashing lights, so it becomes difficult to find mates. In addition, pesticides and climate change are also to blame for reducing the firefly population.

(5) In order to protect themselves, lightning bugs do something called reflex bleeding.

Fireflies are surrounded by predators, like birds, toads, and lizards. Since these insects are not fast enough to fly away, they need to rely on an internal mechanism to protect themselves. When under attack, fireflies use a tactic called reflex bleeding in which they they release drops of blood that taste bitter. Sometimes these drops of blood are even deadly to predators.

(6) World Firefly Day is the first weekend of July.

Designated by the Fireflyers International Network as the day to respect fireflies, this particular event is probably news to you! There are a lot of fun activities you can do to teach your kids about the importance of fireflies and how we can protect them. A good place to start is by reading stories climate changewhich will teach kids how they can better take care of the environment. Also, grab some non-fiction books about fireflies that address their importance in the ecosystem. The goal for this particular day is to raise general awareness which you can start right at home. 

(7) The rarest firefly is called a Blue Ghost.

You have to travel to Asheville, North Carolina to catch a glimpse of this rare species that only makes an appearance for about two to four weeks every year. When mating season begins during the late spring to early summer period, the males emit a blue-white light to attract females. The surreal scene created at night is so magical it looks almost otherworldly. Instead of flashing lights, the males can hold their glow steady for at least a minute at a time, creating a sky filled with the appearance of blue streaks. Females never develop beyond a larvae state, so they can only crawl a short distance across leaves to meet their mates.


lightning bug


More Facts for Kids Who Love Nature

Ladybug Facts for Kids

All About Rainbows

Buzzing Bee Trivia 

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