Remember this mystery insect from last week:
Photo by Alex Wild (www. alexanderwild.com)
The only hint given last week was that this little critter was, in fact, an insect (because it has three pairs of legs). No one had any good guesses - and I have to admit - this was a tough one!
So, now to reveal the mystery - drum roll please..... this little critter is a firefly (or lightning bug) larva! Who knew a firefly larva was so strange looking!
We all know that adult fireflies "light up" - they emit light that we enjoy watching on hot summer nights. For many of us, spotting and catching fireflies is one of our favorite summertime memories.
Fireflies use their lights to talk to each other. Adults emit light mostly to attract mates, but they may also use their light to defend their territory and keep predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. In most, however, both sexes emit light. Male fireflies flash their abdomens in species-specific patterns, hoping to attract the attention of a female hiding in the grass. An interested female will return the pattern, helping guide the male to her in the darkness. Firefly light patterns will vary in frequency and length, and are species-specific. In addition, the height at which they emit their light while in flight will vary depending on the species. Pretty cool, huh? One other interesting fact about fireflies - they are actually beetles!
Firefly larva (Photo by Jasja Dekker)
So, we all know adult fireflies emit lights, but did you know that firefly larvae also light up? But why do the larvae glow? What purpose does it serve? Light emitting serves a different function in larvae than it does in adults. It appears to be a warning signal to predators since many firefly larvae contain chemicals that are distasteful or toxic.
Firefly larvae live on the ground, under bark, and in other moist places. They eat earthworms, snails and slugs. Larvae may also scavenge on certain small dead animals and other organic material. They have sickle-shaped mandibles with which they can inject a kind of chemical that paralyzes their prey and helps digest it.
Check out this amazing video below to see a firefly larva glowing: