Being First isn't Always Best
Oh what we do for a mate? I saw the first firefly of the summer today - on Memorial Day-the unofficial beginning date of summer. Unfortunately the chances for finding a mate when you are the only one out there is pretty slim.
Lampyridae or fireflies are winged beetles, and commonly called lightning bugs for their conspicuous bioluminescence to attract mates or prey. Fireflies produce a "cold light", with no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies. This chemically-produced light from the lower abdomen may be yellow, green, or pale-red, with wavelengths from 510 to 670 nanometers. (Ok, so this is for the geek in me who knows fiber optics and laser transmissions. And why do these things link together in my mind? Because my mind assembles data holographically.)
Fireflies use their flashing lights for the primary purpose of mate selection. (Is that why the former tenant of my house had a red bulb in the porch lantern?) Fireflies use bioluminescence for sexual selection. They have evolved a variety of ways to communicate with mates in courtships: steady glows, flashing, as well as the use of chemical signals unrelated to photic systems. Generally, females of the Photinus genus do not fly, but do give a flash response to males of their own species. (Ok, chemical substances sometimes enhance mating.)
In the United States, one of the most famous sightings of fireflies blinking in unison occurs annually near Elkmont, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains during the first weeks of June. Congaree National Park in South Carolina is another host to this phenomenon (This may require a road trip for me...all those lights flashing together...indistinguishable individuals - Beltane!)
My childhood fascination of capturing a lightning bug in a mason jar ended with the recognition it was a beetle. Fly with the crowd if you're hoping to mate.
Amarjah Wisdom School
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