Fireflies

FIREFLIESmusic; ambience: InsectsThis is the season for one of nature’s most impressive light shows: a landscape full of fireflies. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Fireflies fluttering around on summer night glow from an incredibly efficient chemical reaction; it produces almost 100% light, and no heat. Male fireflies use that light when they take to the air, blazing a signal to potential mates. The females stay in the grass, waiting to see a pattern of light that catches their fancy, and then they flash back like a beacon to call the males down. Research conducted at the University of Kansas by Marc Branham suggests that the females are looking for the mate who can blink the quickest. Apparently the females went crazy when shown a light flashing very quickly.Each species of firefly has a distinct pattern of blinks, and sometimes you can trick them to approach you with the help of a well-timed flashlight. Certain predatory female fireflies have learned to do virtually the same thing. They’ll mimic the signal of a different species, and when a male stops by to check it out, they’ll have him for dinner. Now, most anyone who grew up in rural America has tried to catch fireflies at one time or another, and that practice is even more popular in Japan. There children traditionally hunt lightning bugs with fans, bamboo branches, and cages covered with cheesecloth. Some street vendors can still be found selling the insects in tiny cages. Watching fireflies light up the countryside is a traditional summer pastime in Japan, and legend has it that the insects are actually reincarnated soldiers from the Minamoto and Taita clans, still engaged in fighting an ancient battle. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Fireflies

What's behind the summer's most famous flying light show?
Air Date:07/01/2021
Scientist:
Transcript:

FIREFLIESmusic; ambience: InsectsThis is the season for one of nature's most impressive light shows: a landscape full of fireflies. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Fireflies fluttering around on summer night glow from an incredibly efficient chemical reaction; it produces almost 100% light, and no heat. Male fireflies use that light when they take to the air, blazing a signal to potential mates. The females stay in the grass, waiting to see a pattern of light that catches their fancy, and then they flash back like a beacon to call the males down. Research conducted at the University of Kansas by Marc Branham suggests that the females are looking for the mate who can blink the quickest. Apparently the females went crazy when shown a light flashing very quickly.Each species of firefly has a distinct pattern of blinks, and sometimes you can trick them to approach you with the help of a well-timed flashlight. Certain predatory female fireflies have learned to do virtually the same thing. They'll mimic the signal of a different species, and when a male stops by to check it out, they'll have him for dinner. Now, most anyone who grew up in rural America has tried to catch fireflies at one time or another, and that practice is even more popular in Japan. There children traditionally hunt lightning bugs with fans, bamboo branches, and cages covered with cheesecloth. Some street vendors can still be found selling the insects in tiny cages. Watching fireflies light up the countryside is a traditional summer pastime in Japan, and legend has it that the insects are actually reincarnated soldiers from the Minamoto and Taita clans, still engaged in fighting an ancient battle. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.