The fireflies that hunt other fireflies


The unusually mild winter in my area seems to have given us a huge number of fireflies–or, as I prefer to call them, lightning bugs–this summer. It’s been a real treat to go out and see them, although I never have been able to distinguish one species from another.

There was, though, the time a British friend saw them for the first time and asked, in terror, why there were little lights all over my yard. He thought he was hallucinating. I took great pleasure in explaining what lightning bugs were. In retrospect I think I explained too quickly, and would have gotten even more pleasure out of letting him think he was losing his mind for a while.


Bruce Sterling’s Luciferase is a fun treatment of firefly (inc Photuris) love and predation.

Always loved lightning bugs… I recall getting the sticky stuff (reflex bleeding) on my hands when catching them.

Edit: I always recall hearing that lightning bugs would be caught and sold “back in the day” because luciferase was used for some pharmaceutical.
Edit2: I guess that it wasn’t just “back in the day”: from 2008
Researchers to pay $12 an ounce for fireflies » Lifestyles » Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Edit3: Was trying to see if they still pay for fireflies (looks like no) and came across a neat Clemson U project for counting fireflies via smart phone apps:
Vanishing Firefly Project : Public Service : Clemson University : South Carolina


My parents would have been thrilled to know someone would pay for lightning bugs. When I was a kid I could have made them a fortune.

Instead I just filled a jar with lightning bugs and let them loose in the house. That was a fun night.


Same here – would let at least dozen loose in my bedroom.


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