04 March 2012
My sister and I had such fun chasing fireflies every summer when we went to Illinois to visit Grandma. Of course, I wondered what made these insects flash light, but Grandma didn't know. Little did I realize I was 'listening' to the language spoken only by fireflies! If I had know then what I know now, I could have 'spoken firefly', too!
Those light flashes created by fireflies are actually a quite complex language. The more than 200 species of firefly each have their own language. Each species uses a different combination of color, intensity and flash intervals.
As the male firefly cruises over the firefly community, he emits an automatic series of flashes. As he "talks" with flashes of light, he is looking for the appropriate response from a female who is ready to mate.
Each species has its own light language, helping males to identify members of their own species. Females who are not ready to mate or who have already mated communicate these facts to the overhead male.
Evidence indicates that at least one firefly species understands and can speak "foreign" firefly language. Females of this species will lure males of other species down by using the male's language and pretending to be a female who is ready to mate. When the male comes close for mating, the female captures and eats him. Uh oh!
You can "speak" firefly, too, if you have a flashlight. First, you must cover the flashlight so that it emits only a tiny point of light. Then, after carefully watching the patterns of the female fireflies in the area, try to mimic that pattern. If you do this correctly, male fireflies will come to investigate your flashlight.
Isn't this a cool Fingerprint of The Master Designer?