Fireflies As Pest Control – How Are Fireflies Beneficial To Gardens
By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
Fireflies are a treasured part of the summer garden. Also known as lightning bugs, these insects are unique for their ability to “light up” as they fly through the air on a hot and humid evening. Common in backyards, many gardeners may have never considered whether or not this insect is a garden friend or foe. By learning more about lightning bugs and about their life cycle, home gardeners are able to feel more confident about the benefits of fireflies and their ability to encourage more frequent visits from this insect.
Are Fireflies Beneficial?
Adult fireflies are very common in gardens. In fact, eventhose living in larger cities have likely encountered this insect as the sunhas started to set. Adult fireflies are those which are most easily identified.More specifically, male lightning bugs are typically the ones seen flyingthroughout the garden. As they glow, they actively seek female bugs.
The female will then “answer” with her own signal. Thoughadults are most common, larval fireflies also exist in the garden. As with anyinsect, the garden will be impacted in different ways depending upon theirgrowth cycle.
Adult fireflies feed on plant nectar in the garden. Whilethese flying insects may sometimes assist with pollination, it is unlikely thatit is reliable to count on lightning bugs as pest management. Though the adultlightning bugs do not feed on garden insects, this does not mean there are nobenefits of fireflies.
Do Fireflies Kill Pests?
When it comes to fireflies as pest control, most gardeningprofessionals refer to the firefly larvae. Also known as glow worms, thefirefly larvae are found in the ground and in the upper levels of the soil.
Like the adult insect, the firefly larvae also glow. Thatsaid, glow worms are often difficult to find, as they are known to hide inleaves and other garden debris. In the larval form, fireflies feed on otherinsects in the soil – such as slugs,snails,and caterpillars.
Encouraging the presence of lightning bugs and their larvaein your garden is easy. Growers can entice fireflies to visit their gardens byreducing or stopping the use of chemical treatments. Additionally, smallplantings of nectar rich flowers will help to encourage populations of adultinsects.
Lightning bug larvae will most commonly be found in gardenbeds and areas of soil in which the ground has not been disturbed.
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The Science Behind Fireflies
Running around the backyard on warm summer nights in an attempt to catch fireflies is a fun pastime. These insects, also known as lightning bugs, can light up the night with their magical glow. But, what actually makes them flash? Read on to learn about the science behind this dazzling summer bug. You might be “enlightened!”
Fireflies aren’t flies at all!
They’re actually beetles. Fireflies are nocturnal members of the Lampyridae family. The name comes from the Greek “lampein,” which means to shine. Oh, the irony! Some fireflies are diurnal, but they typically don’t glow. Most fireflies are winged, which distinguishes them from other luminescent insects of the same family, often referred to as glowworms. The name “glowworm” can indicate many different species, including fireflies.
Fireflies are efficiency superstars.
Fireflies have light organs that are located beneath their abdomens. Although more than 2,000 species bear the name “firefly,” not all fireflies glow. Those that do mix oxygen with a pigment called luciferin to generate light with very little heat. The enzyme luciferase acts on the luciferin in the presence of magnesium ions, a chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and oxygen to produce light. The light that some fireflies produce is extremely efficient. In fact, it’s the most efficient light in the world! Nearly 100% of the chemical reaction’s energy becomes light. The light that fireflies produce may be green, yellow or orange in color.
Occasionally, fireflies put their efficient light to good use in flashy displays. Some fireflies, most famously in Southeast Asia, will synchronize their flashes. In the U.S., this phenomenon occurs during the first few weeks of June in the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee.
Firefly flashes can be as romantic as a dozen roses…sometimes.
Fireflies flash in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is used to help them find potential mates. Male fireflies typically fly through the air in search of a female by emitting a species-specific flashing pattern. Some fireflies only flash once, while others do so up to nine times. The females sit on the ground and wait until they see an impressive light display. They show their interest by responding with a single flash, timed to follow the males’ characteristic flashes in a species-specific manner.
Less romantically, female fireflies in the genus Photuris mimic the flash of females in the genus Photinus attracting Photinus males, which they lure in to eat. Not only do the Photuris females get food, they also incorporate chemicals from the Photinus males that make them distasteful to predators.
Fireflies use their light to ward off predators.
Speaking of predators, firefly blood contains a defensive steroid called lucibufagins, which makes them unappetizing to potential hunters. Once predators get a bite, they associate the unpleasant taste with firefly light and avoid attacking the lightning bugs in the future.
Some fireflies eat other types of fireflies.
The larvae of most fireflies are predaceous, beneficial insects that feed on snails, slugs and worms. When they become adults, fireflies may eat pollen, nectar or nothing at all! The few species that remain carnivorous through adulthood eat other types of fireflies. Talk about a strange diet!
Humans are contributing to fireflies’ decline.
If you don’t see as many fireflies this summer as you have in the past, it’s because these lightning bugs are on the decline. Light pollution, development of fireflies’ habitats and harvesting are all leading to a decrease in the number of fireflies. When their habitat is overtaken, fireflies do not relocate. Instead, they just disappear.
If you live in a place where fireflies are common, look out for the patterns and habits discussed here. If you want to catch fireflies, keep them safe by placing a wet paper towel in the bottom of a glass jar. Pierce holes in the jar’s lid so that the fireflies can breathe. Don’t forget to release them after a day or two!
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Itchy and Irritating Bites
Just like humans, only some pets are allergic to bees and wasps. If you find that your furry friend has been stung, it is best to err on the side of caution and take them to the vet. This is especially true if you see any signs of an allergic reaction, such as swelling, seizures, or respiratory distress.
If your dog or cat comes into contact with an ant hill, they could get a large number of bites within a short amount of time. These bites will often resemble hives and can spread all over the body. It is not common for a serious reaction to occur, but anaphylaxis is always a possibility. For the most part, ant bites are just itchy and uncomfortable. If you notice ant bites on your pet, take him or her to the vet. A veterinarian will be able to provide treatment to reduce the severity of the reaction.
Our furry friends are not immune to these incredibly annoying pests. Bed bugs can bite animals just as they bite us. If you have bed bugs in your home, it is important to contact a pest control professional immediately.
The main problem with flea bites is that they are incredibly annoying and itchy. However, some pets who are allergic to fleas can develop something much worse: allergic dermatitis. An allergic reaction such as this may cause your dog or cat to scratch so much that their skin bleeds, which can cause sores and hairless spots. If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to take your pet to see a veterinarian, as they will be able to prescribe antibiotic treatment. Also, be sure to ask about a prescription flea repellent product for your pet, in order to prevent future flea bites.
There are about 2,000 firefly species. These insects live in a variety of warm environments, as well as in more temperate regions, and are a familiar sight on summer evenings. Fireflies love moisture and often live in humid regions of Asia and the Americas. In drier areas, they are found around wet or damp areas that retain moisture.
Everyone knows how fireflies got their name, but many people don't know how the insects produce their signature glow. Fireflies have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. The insects take in oxygen and, inside special cells, combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat.
Firefly light is usually intermittent, and flashes in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is an optical signal that helps fireflies find potential mates. Scientists are not sure how the insects regulate this process to turn their lights on and off.
Firefly light may also serve as a defense mechanism that flashes a clear warning of the insect's unappetizing taste. The fact that even larvae are luminescent lends support to this theory.