On the next warm summer night, take the time to head outdoors and teach your kids about the beauty of nature. If your neighborhood has an abundance of flora and fauna – and, you happen to live in a relatively humid climate, you might have the opportunity to spot some vibrant fireflies! Share some of our top tips and learn how you can take your kids firefly-catching, so they can learn about this interesting insect. All you’ll need is a net and a jar! With such a fun activity, your family is bound to remember these warm summer nights fondly.
Fireflies love bodies of standing water, and tend to be found towards marshy areas with tall grass. However, depending on where you live, they can be found in fields, in wooded areas, and even in your own garden. To spot fireflies, you simply have to look for the blinking lights! It’s best to go firefly-catching when it’s pretty dark, as you’ll be able to spot them easier and they won’t be confused by any artificial light sources; however, for safety purposes, be sure to have a flashlight on hand in case you need one. When you and your kids find fireflies, catch them with your nets! Be patient; catching the bugs might not be easy. Also, be careful and make sure not to injure the fireflies; catching one or two at a time is recommended. After each catch, put the fireflies in a jar. Your jar should have small holes in the lid for ventilation, as well as a damp paper towel at the bottom of the jar. The towel will keep the jar humid, so that the fireflies don’t dry out. You want to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible! Don’t keep the fireflies longer than a day; if they’re kept any longer, it’s probable that they will die. When releasing them, it’s best to release them at night, as that’s when they are most energetic. Your kids will have so much fun catching and examining these fascinating creatures!
So what exactly makes a firefly bioluminescent (meaning that they produce and emit light)? The light comes from a chemical reaction within a firefly’s abdomen – the main chemical in this reaction is luciferin, which is responsible for the yellowish luminescence. Along with some other chemicals, plus the addition of oxygen, the chemical reaction is activated, causing the fireflies to light up! Interestingly enough, the fireflies’ light produces very little heat.
A firefly’s glow serves a few purposes…
1) It warns predators that might want to eat the firefly! Fireflies taste bitter and often contain some chemicals that may be toxic to certain animals.
2) It allows the fireflies to communicate with each other.
3) It attracts firefly mates. Each species of firefly has its own special flashing pattern, which enables them to recognize potential mates.
4) It attracts prey.
Teach your kids these facts about this marvelous creature and watch their eyes light up – figuratively, of course!
Photo by: Takashi Ota
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