The Mating Dance of Lightning Bugs
In the Eastern States there is a fantastic flying creature that lights up the darkness of forests and back yards alike – the lightning bug. He doesn’t roam farther west than Kansas, and avoids yards with too much light or pesticides. Sometimes called fireflies, they are the same creature.
In fact, Lampyridae, as they are known scientifically, are not flies but from a family of beetles called Coleoptera. Their magical ability to light up is a result of a unique trait called bioluminescence.
Along with their entertainment value, lightning bugs dine on a variety of slimy animals, including snails and slugs. They are also fond of earthworms, when available.
The light itself is produced as part of a mating dance. Males produce light as they sail through the dark air, sending out a signal to any nearby females. On the ground, the female also lights up. Occasionally, signals get crossed and a male chooses the wrong female. So she promptly eats him, abruptly ending what was a beautiful mating dance.
Some people say the term “femme fatale” grew out of this mating ritual gone awry.
Scientists do not fully understand how lightning bugs regulate the use of their bioluminescent power. The current theory is that they control output of chemicals by somehow restricting the oxygen in their bodies.