Lighting Up the Night – Fireflies Blazing Beautiful Patterns in the Dark

Remember watching fireflies light up your back yard on hot summer nights? Fireflies are beautiful, mysterious, and magical. Firefly populations are dwindling all over the world. Here’s a small post on these magical creatures – the most efficient lights in the world!

Fireflies Talk: the Language of Light

Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. Howeer, in most situations the both sexes glow. Very often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she’ll signal it with a flash of her own.

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Scientists believe they may flash to drive away predators, claim territory, and communicate with others of their species as well—although the finer points of their language have never been studied extensively. One thing’s for sure, though: without those flashing lights, there could be no fireflies.

Fireflies produce “cold light”

Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.”

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Fireflies – How does it Work?

In a firefly’s tail, you’ll find two chemicals: luciferase and luciferin. Luciferin is heat resistant, and it glows under the right conditions. Luciferase is an enzyme that triggers light emission. ATP, a chemical within the firefly’s body, converts to energy and initiates the glow. All living things, not just fireflies, contain ATP.

Fireflies have a short ‘Lifespan’

To stay a bit in ‘the language of light’: the lifespan of fireflies isn’t that long as you may expect. Although being very low consumers of energy with a high eficacy, an adult firefly lives only long enough to mate and lay eggs—so they may not need to eat during their adult life stage. The larvae usually live for approximately one year, from mating season to mating season, before becoming adults and giving birth to the next generation.

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Fireflies – what’s more?

There’s certainly many more to say about these intriguing creatures, but let’s finish with a great movie with night and day timelapses and some references. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in the phenomenon of ‘bioluminescence’, I can recommend you reading one of my other posts ‘Bioluminescent Plankton Create Magical Blue Imagery at Night‘.

The stunning time-lapse images in this article were created by photographer and Artist Tsuneaki Hiramatsu for the Daily Mail.

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One thought on “Lighting Up the Night – Fireflies Blazing Beautiful Patterns in the Dark

  1. Pingback: Will Luminous Trees be our Future Street Lights? | Light | 3DP | Optics

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