Tuesday, June 7, 2011


The fireflies o'er the meadow, in pulses come and go. - "Midnight" by James Russell Lowell

We were sitting in the front yard last night, enjoying one of the few remaining pleasant evenings before the summer heat and mosquitoes hit - and watching the lightning bugs.  I felt 8-years-old again...except for the aching joints and stiff muscles.  Fireflies, or lightning bugs as we called them in central Kansas, conjure memories of running through my grandparents' yard, catching bugs in jars, and giggling with my sisters and cousins.  Don't know why I have no memory of chasing fireflies in my own yard, which was just across the street.  Maybe there was just more open space at Grandma's.  Having lived the majority of my adult life in the dryer parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado, I had nearly forgotten about the twinkling fairy lights that lit my childhood summers.

Now that you have a magical picture of little girls in pink summer dresses with flower wreaths in their hair, skipping through meadows of wildflowers...we used to pull the lights off the fireflies and use them for jewelry.  Those little bug-butts were sticky (can't imagine why after being dismembered) and made beautiful rings and bracelets for miniature mutilators.

Were fireflies a part of your childhood?  Do you have them where you live?  What else brings back memories of summer for you?  For me it's playing in the sprinkler, bikes, games of hop-scotch drawn with "chalk rock", and lots of time to read.

While you're pondering you're childhood memories, ponder these fun facts about fireflies:

  • Fireflies need standing water -  heat and humidity. 
  • In the U.S., almost no species of fireflies are found west of Kansas—although there are also warm and humid areas to the west. Nobody is sure why this is.
  • Fireflies also love long grassLong grass conceals the fireflies better and allows them a better vantage point for signaling at night, and over-mowing your lawn may disturb your firefly population.
  • A light bulb in your home can only use 10% of the energy that goes through it to produce light, the rest is turned into heat. 90% of a lightning bug's energy is used to create light. 
  • Fireflies/lightning bugs are neither flies nor bugs - they are beetles.
  • Adult fireflies (after the larvae and pupae stages) live only three months.
  • The Lightning Bug contains luciferin and luciferase, two rare chemicals used in research on cancer, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and heart disease.
  • The larvae of most species are specialized predators and feed on other insect larvae, snails and slugs, so they are beneficial to gardens.


  1. "...except for aching muscles and stiff joints" OH BOY can I relate to that!

    The heat has already arrived in KC - although the weather forecast does call for a bit of a cool down by the weekend.

    I have not noticed any lightning bugs yet - but will now keep my eyes open.

  2. Ah, yes, those "diamond" rings! One night the girls from down the street and I took our glass jar of fireflies down into our basement to show Mom & Dad our night's catch. I have no idea why they were in the basement or how this happened, but Janie dropped the jar and somehow cut the tendon in her hand on the broken glass. I have no memory of the blood and panic that must have ensued but I can picture later that night when Julie and I were whispering in bed and worrying about whether or not Janie's hand would ever move again. Julie spent the night at our house while her parents were with Janie at the hospital. We must have been very young because they moved away the year we started school. Memories!!!

  3. We didn't have fireflies (still don't) in Holland when I grew up, so no childhood memories of them. But my toddler might have one: we were in the south of France last week, housesitting a friend's house, when one night our son woke up crying around 4 am. My husband went into his room to see what the problem was- a firefly was quietly flying around our son's room, lighting it up constantly and scaring the hell out of our son! ;-)