Tag Archives: saving lightning bugs

Romance is for the birds, no strike that, lightning bugs

I’m not someone who walks around calling herself a “hopeless romantic” but that doesn’t mean I don’t see the appeal of romance. It’s just that it doesn’t necessarily look in my mind’s eye like Hollywood’s version. To wit, I’ve found romance in an unlikely place.

I adore lightning bugs – you may know them as fireflies or some other name. They are just the coolest thing, flashing their tiny beacons in the early summer evenings. Part of the appeal is their rarity; their season is short.

In older blog posts, I’ve written of using my seasonal screen tent (imperative against mosquitoes) in summer. Unfortunately, there are frequent smokers in my midst in the last year so I no longer can use it as I once did. However, I grab my moments when I can.

Flying insects – but not mosquitoes – still seem to end up inside the tent, I’m really not sure how, especially the larger ones. For the most part, I figure they’re on their own. However, lightning bugs occasionally show up inside the tent as well. Those I cannot leave be.

Way back in 1990 I read and saved an article on lightning bugs based on information from Howard Seliger, a Johns Hopkins professor. who studied the glowing flyers. According to him, the adult lightning bug lives a mere week or two. The lightning flashes are intended to signal a potential mate which is the male insect’s sole goal.

The trouble is there are many species of lightning bugs and each has its own particular signal. A lady lightning bug is looking for her match, not some random schmuck. She flashes her own light as the go-ahead to the fellow of her choosing. Successful coupling is rare.

The lightning bug courtship appeals to the romantic in me. When I find a lightning bug inside the screen tent, aimlessly walking around or clinging to the screen, I leap into action. “Hey! You’re burning daylight, my little friend. Get out there and get yourself some lightning bug sex! How long have you been in here anyway?! Let’s get cracking!” I may not make the whole speech but I usually admonish and encourage the bug in some way as I catch it and put it back outside. Seeing one take off in search of its partner gives my heart a little happy jump. If, unbeknownst to me, a bird promptly eats the lightning bug or it keels over loveless because its demise was imminent, I don’t want to know about it.