Fireflies

Kruger National Park · February 2019
By Quentin Swanevelder
Field Guide

The summer months in the lowveld have delivered wonderful rains and the bush has transformed into an amazing lush green wonderland. During recent summer evenings, the darkness has been transformed into dazzling displays of light emitted by an unusual number of fireflies.

The lush grassland areas of the concession are lit up in the evenings by these wonderful insects as they fly and glow trying to attract mates.

Fireflies or lightning bugs are small insect belonging to the family of insects Lampyridae in the order of Coleoptera. They are soft-bodied beetles that are known for their conspicuous use of bioluminescence during twilight to attract mates.

The bioluminescence is caused by enzymes in their bodies known as luciferin that creates a glow when exposed to oxygen. This process is referred to as luciferase, which is the only known way of producing light without heat.

Fireflies are males and the females are known as glow worms. Females will try and attract males by emitting a certain frequency of light. To eliminate crossbreeding of species each species will emit a very specific frequency of light. There are certain predatory species that will mimic frequencies to attract males and eat them!

The next time you are out on safari in the evening, turn off the lights and enjoy the spectacular firefly lightshow!

Image by Mike Kirby, ‘A perfect sunset with a pride.’

By Quentin Swanevelder
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