Conservation Minnesota

Fireflies: The bug we all love

As summer draws to a close, I’m reflecting on what I love most about the season. Fireflies and their magical glow land near the top of my list. Unfortunately, here in northwestern Minnesota we never see fireflies. My husband tells me that they were here when he was a child. Sad to say, I’ve lived here for over twenty years and haven’t seen one in that time.

One of the things I appreciate the most when I visit my home state of Iowa each summer is the fireflies or lightening bugs, as we called them. I have fond memories as a kid — chasing them, capturing them in jars, making rings out of them and the aura they cast on the summer nights. They were bugs that I wasn’t afraid to handle. Something about their light just draws kids to them. I remember the first time my oldest son saw fireflies on one of our trips south. He came to me, so excited, and wide-eyed, “Guess what I saw, Mom?!” It made me think of kids who grow up in the south and get the chance to see snow for the first time.

Some information I’ve learned about fireflies: they glow to attract mates and to defend their territory. Even the larvae and eggs of some firefly species light up. Scientists aren’t sure what some adult firefly species eat. It may be that they don’t eat at all. The larvae live for about a year, covering a mating season, but adults live only until they mate and lay eggs. Fireflies live near forests, fields, long grass and lakes. They like it humid and warm and they exist throughout the world on every continent except Antarctica. There aren’t any fireflies west of Kansas in the United States and no one knows why.

I’ve read that fireflies are disappearing fast and can’t help but feel bad. Apparently, light pollution, urban sprawl and chemicals are thought to be to blame. Their habitat is being destructed and fragmented and our bright lights are throwing off their mating signals to each other. The pesticides and other chemicals deliver the final blow.

When you are tempted to mow every inch of your lawn, cover your grass in chemicals, light up the night sky with artificial lights remember the effect on those bugs that seem to bring out nostalgic feelings from just about everyone.

About Kristin Eggerling

Kristin Eggerling
Kristin Eggerling is the mother of two and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota. She most recently worked in the public health field as the administrator for Quin Community Health Services which serves the counties of Kittson, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake and Roseau.
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