5 Surprising Facts About Lightning Bugs

lightning bugs

If you’re from the South, you probably have vivid memories of running around barefoot in the dewy grass on warm summer nights––catching glimmering, shining, lightning bugs.

Also known as fireflies, lightning bugs can light up the night with their neon glow. But what actually makes them “glow?” 

Read on to learn more about lightning bugs, and what causes their infamous “lightening.”

#1: Lightning Bugs Are Beetles

This may come as a shock to you, but lightning bugs are not flies––they’re beetles. They come from the Lampyridae family, where their name is derived from the Greek word “lampein,” which means “to shine.” Most fireflies are winged, which distinguishes them from other luminescent insects of the same family––glowworms.

#2: Lightning Bugs Are Efficiency Powerhouses

More than 2,000 species of lightning bugs bear the name “firefly,” yet not all fireflies glow. Those that do mix oxygen with a pigment called luciferin, to generate light with very little heat. The enzyme luciferase acts on the luciferin in the presence of magnesium ions, a chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and oxygen to produce light. 

The light that some lightning bugs produce is extremely efficient. In fact, they’re efficiency powerhouses—nearly 100% of the chemical reaction’s energy becomes light. 

#3: Lightning Bugs Use Their Light as a Defense Mechanism

Lightning bug blood contains a defensive steroid called lucibufagins, which makes them unappetizing to potential predators. Once a predator gets a taste, they associate it with firefly light and avoid attacking any bugs they see glowing in the future.

#4: They Have a Strange Diet

The larvae of lightning bugs are predaceous, and feed on snails, slugs, and worms. When they mature, lightning bugs may eat pollen, nectar, or nothing at all! Some species of lightning bugs remain carnivorous, and may even eat other types of fireflies!

#5: Lightning Bugs Are on the Decline

If you don’t live in the city (city lights are a threat to lightning bugs), you may be wondering why you’re still seeing a decline in these creatures. Well, it’s because they are on the decline. Light pollution, the development of lightning bugs’ habits, and harvesting are all the leading causes of the decline in the numbers of lightning bugs. When their habitat is taken over, they do not relocate. They simply disappear. 

We Take Care of the Bad Pests

Lightning bugs aren’t pests, and are definitely a treat to find in your yard. If you see some flying around in your yard, we recommend getting a jar with holes, and capturing some! Just make sure you release these glowing insects after a day or so. 

However, if you notice any stinging or biting insects while you’re outside, make sure you give us a call!