Friday, June 18, 2010

Folklife Fridays: Fireflies/Lightning Bugs

Forget the 90 degree days.

Forget the farmers tilling the soil with their big green machines.

Forget that the summer solstice, that time when the days are longest, has not yet arrived.

You know it's summer when the fireflies come out.



In long ago summers, we all went outside after supper. It was cooler there than in the house, where Mama had been cooking and canning all day.

Our parents would sit on the porch, more often than not with a friend or relative that dropped by. The younger set would chase fireflies, or lightning bugs. We would run through the familiar yard chasing them until it was dark and the dew formed on the grass around our bare feet.

Mama always kept jars that were no longer good for canning for us to capture lightning bugs in. With a hammer and a nail, we would poke holes in the top of the lid to allow the little creatures to breathe. We would often forget them, if Mama made a watermelon call, or some other distraction grabbed our attention, and the poor things would be shriveled at the bottom of the jar by the next morning.

We did experiments--pinching off the part that lighted and rubbing it on ourselves with the hope we would glow. It never worked. Not everything was meant to glow, including me.

It's still a mystery how they produce such efficient light (our light bulbs produce 10% light and 90% heat; lightning bugs produce 100% light and no heat). Wikipedia describes it like this:


Light production in fireflies is due to a type of chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This process occurs in specialised light-emitting organs,
usually on a firefly's lower abdomen. The enzyme luciferase acts on luciferin,
in the presence of magnesium ions, ATP (adenosene triphosphate), and oxygen to
produce light.

Did that clear up all your questions?

Lightning bugs love moisture, and you can usually see them best after a rain. They are not common in well-lighted places; you made need a ride to the country to see them best. After all, if the lights are a form of courtship like some scientists think, it would just be wasted effort in places where the glow can't be seen clearly.

Lightning bugs are just another blessing provided for us to enjoy. There is so much beauty around us! We just need to slow down and open our eyes!


May what our Master Jesus Christ gives freely be deeply and personally yours, my friends. Oh, Yes! Galatians 6:18