Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bright beetles

kw: observations, insects

I lived west of the Rockies until I was thirteen. Then we moved to Ohio and my brothers and I first saw fireflies. We were enchanted. We found them easy to catch, but staying out during "firefly hour" required that we brave the mosquitoes, a fearsome prospect. DEET hadn't been invented yet, so bug sprays were rather ineffective.

I've noticed little kids in our neighborhood at dusk, the three and four year olds, very excitedly chasing fireflies. By ten or twelve they are pretty jaded and seem to prefer staying in with video games. I guess it was the newness; I stayed out as long as I could stand it, just watching and watching.

This picture, which is all over the web, is from a guy named Steve Irvine, in Ontario, Canada. It is apparently a one-hour time exposure, capturing most of the 90-minute activity period for the local fireflies.

I suppose the streaky flashes that fill the scene are the flying males, and the band of dots in the background was made by the stationary females. My Dad tells me that when he was growing up, the females were called glowworms, because the local species in Missouri has flightless females that look more like caterpillars than the beetles that they actually are.

When my wife and I take a walk, we usually go at dusk this time of year to avoid the heat earlier in the day, so we usually see fireflies. Tonight, at first we didn't see any, and I wondered if they'd perished in the extreme heat we have been having. But soon we began to see them, and it made our walk a little happier. The little stream that runs past the end of the street is nearly out of water, but there is sufficient for the needs of small creatures such as these. I don't know what fireflies eat, though I've heard they eat mosquitoes. There are very few of those this year, but I reckon they have other prey, for they have been as plentiful as ever throughout June, and there are still quite a lot of them. Seeing fireflies is one of the things that make it worth taking an evening walk in the summertime.

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