Even without looking outside, I know when
firefly season is here. Every year about May or June, I start
getting hits on my website from people looking for information
on fireflies, or "lightning bugs" as we commonly call
them here in the South.
I added a bit of firefly information, just
for the heck of it, for the people that came there by
mistake looking for lightning bug information and finding only
my lame attempts at humor.
I always wonder what it is about fireflies
that seems to capture the imagination and make people want to
understand them. Sure, kids are fascinated, but they are kids.
It doesnít take much to amuse a child.
All of us who grew up where fireflies were plentiful remember
running barefoot through the cool grass, chasing the glowing
bugs and catching them with our bare hands. Nothing was more
thrilling than a jar full of captive sparkling lighting bugs. We
were fascinated. We longed to save the beauty forever and hold
it in our glass jar, traditionally with holes punched in the top
We sometimes mutilated the bugs looking for the secret to the
flash, but were never able to find it. Alas, when night became
day, the fireflies were nothing but ugly bugs. We dumped them in
disgust. Yet, we would return the next night to try again.
Chasing and capturing the fairylike creatures of the night was a
summer pass time for children.
Perhaps it is the memories that cause adults
to return to look for firefly information, to seek to understand
what was not then understandable, but remained a source of
wonder. Science can explain what we could only ponder about in
our childish ways: a mixture of luciferin and luciferase, a
chemical reaction between the two, a flash controlled by
Our adult mind seeks to comprehend all this, but our heart knows
that none of it is true. They are magic! No, we no longer
believe in magic because we are adults now and know that there
is no such thing. Everything has an explanation and a reason.
But the heart of hearts can still wish that it were so.
Here in Tennessee the lightning bugs have
appeared. They seemed somewhat earlier this year than normal,
perhaps because an unusually warm spring aided with the hatching
of the glowworms and the maturing of the fireflies, who are
actually beetles with two pairs of wings, and not flies at all.
Now that I am older and wiser, Iíve learned that there are
hundreds of species of fireflies and several can often be seen
together. Iíve learned that moisture is what is needed to keep
them alive, not air holes in the top of a jar. Iíve traveled
and studied them and read articles, though Iíll freely admit
that bugs are not really my forte.
In the western United States, fireflies are
rarely, if ever, seen. It is difficult to imagine a warm summer
night with no fireflies, California children growing up without
the fireflies to light their way to maturity. In most of the
states east of Kansas, however, their flashing dance brings joy
to even the most seasoned cynic.
The firefly season is here. Take a moment to
watch, to smile, to enjoy the simple pleasures. It is but a
season, and like childhood, like life and like magic, it will
soon be gone.
Copyright 2001 Sheila Moss