Fireflies (Lightning Bugs)

Approx. 175 species in North America north of Mexico
Lampyridae (fireflies) in the order Coleoptera (beetles)

There are a number of firefly species in our state. As adults most are readily identified by their brown or black, soft bodies, somewhat leathery forewings and a usually red or orange pronotum (a shieldlike plate) that covers the head from above. The last few segments of the abdomen are pale yellow and can glow yellow, green, or sometimes red, depending on the species. They are our only flying, bioluminescent insects.

Length: to about ¾ inch.
Habitat and conservation: 
These beetles are nocturnal and crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) and are usually seen in spring and summer, when the winged adults fly, the bioluminescent tips of their abdomens winking on and off. They’re commonly seen in meadows, yards, edges of forests, and around streams. If you want to encourage fireflies in your area, avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides.
The larvae are voracious predators with jaws equipped with toxin to help them overpower snails, slugs, earthworms, and other prey. Adults eat a variety of foods, depending on the species.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Common throughout the state.
Life cycle: 
The wingless larval form is called a glowworm. These don’t blink, but glow continuously and can be seen on the ground, especially in moist areas near grass and brush. After overwintering and then metamorphosing into adults, these beetles use their flashing abdomens in precise patterns for courtship; different species use different rhythms and flashes; some species lack bioluminescence altogether. Some species mimic the courtship signals of others, lure in prospective “mates,” and then eat them.
Human connections: 
The larvae help control snails and slugs, banes to the gardener; the adults are endlessly entertaining to children and adults. Many scientists use luciferase (the bioluminescent enzyme) in gene research, as a way to observe biological processes and in forensic research.
Ecosystem connections: 
The larvae help control populations of the various invertebrates they prey on; the adults are rarely preyed upon, as they contain chemicals that make them distasteful to predators.
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