7 Illuminating Facts About Fireflies

When the sun goes down, fireflies glow up. Read on to learn more about these extraordinary insects.

  1. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, one particular species of firefly (Photinus carolinus) synchronizes to create some beautiful bioluminescent displays.
  2. Lighting bugs live as adults for about 21 days.
  3. If a field is paved over, the fireflies that lived there don’t migrate to another field. Instead, they disappear entirely.
  4. Nearly 100 percent of the chemical reaction in a firefly’s abdomen is released as light. They glow to find a mate, communicate with members of their species, and to show predators that they are distasteful.
  5. Firefly light comes in three colors: yellow, orange, and green.
  6. From 1960 to the mid-1990s, the Sigma Chemical Co. paid collectors up to one penny per firefly, harvesting over 100 million lightning bugs and possibly reducing local populations. (The company sold luciferase, which is the enzyme that produces light in fireflies.)
  7. Actual fireflies are scarce around bustling Tokyo, Japan, but one firefly festival releases 100,000 small glowing orbs on the Sumida River to imitate that quintessential glow. (Read More! 5 Elegant Japanese Garden Styles to Try)

Kaitlin Stainbrook
Kaitlin Stainbrook, Associate Editor, Birds & Blooms Although Kaitlin is a newbie when it comes to birding and gardening, she loves getting to learn on the job. (She's already impressed a few friends by being able to identify a couple songbirds!) Previously, she worked on other Reader's Digest magazines like Reminisce and Country Woman. Hidden talents include playing the ukulele and speaking Japanese.