Monday, July 28, 2014

Flying green dot - the Firefly!

With my parents we went to Courtallam, the 'Spa of South India' quite often. We were on one such visit to this place of waterfalls in 1960s. At night, I was then shown a green dot of light that flashed on a bush by my elder sisters. In the dark I searched for it and found it.
I was delighted and curious as it was also moving. It is the Firefly! (Lampyris noctiluca, Lightning bug, 'Minminippoochi' in Tamil). 

This flying insect belongs to the beetles family of insects. It's yellowish green light is produced by its lower abdominal segments. These segments contain the chemical called luciferin, that produces this light through a chemical reaction. This phenomenon of giving out light is called bioluminescence. The male insect is smaller; the female is larger but flightless. Both of them produce this green light signal for mating. Female lays eggs and dies. The eggs hatch into larvae  in about three weeks' time. These larvae too emit green light to warn their predators to be away. They feed on snails and slugs; hibernate underground in the winter and come out in the spring. They pupate in one year to become adult flies. The fireflies are said to be carried by a male bird to light the nest it built as part of its courtship with the female bird!

Fireflies are such wonder beetles to me that I still continue to search for it whenever I visit Courtallam at this time of the year - in the month of July!

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