There are a number of firefly species in our state. The adults of most species 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.
The larvae, called glowworms, are wingless. They don’t blink, but they do glow continuously and can be seen on the ground, especially in moist areas near grass and brush.
Habitat and Conservation
The larvae help control snails and slugs, banes to the gardener
The flashing adults are endlessly entertaining to children and adults. Their quiet presence adds to the magic of a Missouri summer night. It's one of the true wonders of nature to see thousands of fireflies winking all across a low fallow field, or, if you're lucky enough, to see an entire group of fireflies in a stream valley winking on and off in unison. In our area, try looking for this phenomenon starting in early June.
Many scientists use luciferase (the bioluminescent enzyme) in gene research, as a way to observe biological processes, and in forensic research.
Old-time Ozark tradition held that the appearance of fireflies meant that cold weather was over and it was safe to set out tomato plants.
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.
Occasionally, an entire group of fireflies in a location (often in a low area like a creek bed) will blink in unison. It is a spectacular sight, and scientists aren't quite sure why or how it happens.