Bug Bites: Firefly

Firefly, photo Bryan E. Reynolds

Photo by Bryan E. Reynolds


Female fireflies flash to attract a mate. The chemicals they use to flash are valued in medical research, and millions of fireflies have been taken from the wild for use in laboratories.

Fun Facts:

  • • Fireflies are actually a type of beetle.
  • • Fireflies produce light through a chemical reaction.  The light produced by this reaction is the most effecient in the world, nearly 100 percent of the energy produced by the reaction is emitted as light.
  • • The firefly Photuris pennsylvanica is the state insect of Pennsylvania.

Conservation Status:

It is very difficult to quantify and accurately represent firefly populations at a particular site, requiring long-term monitoring to assess the ecological processes of a given location.  Anectdotal evidence however suggests firefly populations may be on the decline.

Fireflies prefer habitat that is warm, humid, and near standing water of some kind.  As we develop land and mitigate standing water to manage mosquitoes, we may also be impacting firefly populations.


  • • Habitat loss from development and agriculture.
  • • Light pollution may be interrupting fireflies’ ability to mate, communicate, and fend off predators.

Conservation Efforts:

Long-term studies are currently being conducted to assess the health and size of existing firefly populations. Individuals can follow pollinator-friendly gardening practices, reduce light pollution, and protect existing meadow and forrest habitat.

More Info:

An article about fireflies, “Life at the Speed of Light,” appears in our Fall 2012 issue of Wings




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