Sunday, August 2, 2009
Magic time! Fireflies...
Whether you call them fireflies or lightning bugs or something else entirely, these little creatures with lanterns in their tails populate many parts of the globe. There are more than 2000 members of this family in temperate and tropical climates!
Summer evenings are alight with their syncopated flashings, all in the hopes of attracting a mate (though the one that made it into my house seemed to flash in alarm when it got turned on its back--perhaps it was calling its mate to help right it!)
There have been songs and poems, paintings and more, odes to the firefly...you can see a wide selection of books devoted to the subject (many of them for children, who always seem enchanted by lightning bugs even if they're afraid of other insects and spiders--one of my earliest memories was chasing these delightful creatures, barefoot, in my white nightgown) on this page--click the link to see much more.
Many years later, we went on a night nature walk on Summer Solstice, at the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary in nearby Liberty, Missouri. They offered us nature and magic as well, that night, with faeries and a "troll bridge" and wonderful sights and sounds. When we reached The Firefly Meadow, we watched them dance to the strains of Vivaldi on the warm night air.
I've had a long association with the Sanctuary, but that is my favorite memory by far.
Their cold light is chemical--no infrared or ultraviolet involved. Lampyridae are family to Coleoptera, or beetles, as you can tell by looking at them closely. To my surprise, I find their larvae are predators, feeding on other small bugs and slugs.
You can learn much more about lightning bugs at the Ohio State site, here, and of course, even Wikipedia has an entry
I had already done a quick sketch of my kitten, Sofie (A.K.A. Frack, A.K.A. Squirt), on my journal page, when I spotted the firefly. It had survived the night indoors without being eaten by my cats, so I had to sketch it before releasing it.
I had my little Altoids kit handly so that's what I used--field sketching in the kitchen!
For some reason it was fond of my husband Joseph's favorite antique fork, so I just let that be his modeling stand. I did a bit more work on my sketch later, when I could see the details better...
I usually try to take any chance I get to observe this closely...what a treat!