How firefly light is produced

In the wild, some animals are able to produce their own light. Among them, the best known is the firefly . This small insect is responsible for one of the most impressive scenery in nature, when it lights the end of your chest at night.

However, this charming phenomenon is still unknown to many people and the object of study for many researchers, who are trying to unravel even more how the light of the fireflies is produced .

Firefly (or firefly or “trolley”) is a type of insect beetle . It belongs to the Coleoptera family, and is known for its ability to emit light . Its name differs between its species and it is estimated that there are more than 2,000 types of fireflies.

Both in its larvae form and during adulthood, the firefly has the ability to “light up”, but with different goals between one phase and another.

The firefly is a luminescent insect (Photo: depositphotos)

Unfortunately, with the devastation of Brazilian forests and forests, the country has lost much of the diversity in species of fireflies. Even so, Brazil is still known for being one of the countries with the greatest diversity of luminescent insects.

How is the firefly light produced?

The name of this phenomenon is bioluminescence . It is a chemical reaction that some living beings carry out capable of generating energy. This energy is later converted to light through the chemiluminescence process.

For this light to appear in fireflies, the reaction between some peculiar chemical substances is essential: the pigment luciferin and the enzyme luciferase. Together with the breathed oxygen, the result of this arrangement generates luciferin , the compound that produces light.

The color of light is also a consequence of how the animal uses luciferin. For example, the firefly light has a yellowish tone due to its luminous power. Other bioluminescent animals can generate less light and other “versions” of luciferin, producing light of other colors.

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It is important to remember that the energy and light generated by bioluminescent beings does not generate heat. The light of these animals is known as “cold light”, the one that generates less than 20% of radiation or thermal capacity.

Despite being the most well-known bioluminescent animal, it is important to note that the firefly is not the only one capable of producing light . There are several animals, of different species, that also have this capacity.

In particular, it is easier to find animals with this characteristic in the ocean. Some marine animals, such as fish and plankton, due to the darkness of their habitat, have developed the ability to produce their own light.

However, it is very important not to confuse bioluminescence with fluorescence . In the case of bioluminescent beings, light is literally produced, its own source of luminosity.

Fluorescence is a characteristic that some living beings have, but it acts as a reserve or reflection of a captured luminosity. In this situation, the light is not produced, but reflected from a stimulating light source.

What is the firefly light for?

The reproduction period of the fireflies is known as the “dance of the fireflies” (Photo: depositphotos)

Although beautiful, the light of the firefly is not only there for its beauty. Like any property in nature, the light of the small insect has functions for its defense, survival and reproduction .

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As a larva, the firefly already has the ability to “light”. He uses this feature solely to ward off predators . Its light can be assumed as a toxin by animals that may try to devour it, ensuring that it reaches adulthood.


After the larval period, when the insect assumes its full potential for luminosity, it uses it for reproduction.

The reproduction period of the fireflies is known as the “dance of the fireflies”, and it is an episode considered one of the most beautiful in nature. It occurs when males and females of various species come together to select mates for mating .

An example of this occurs in North America. According to the São Francisco portal , the fireflies that light up the most in the northern region of the American continent are males. They light and flash in flash patterns that indicate which species they are. Then they are answered in a slower pattern by the females, thus forming couples.

This method allows the species of fireflies to recognize each other. Thus, the crossing between different species is avoided. When this mistake occurs, reproduction may not happen or generate infertile species.

Another important detail in this process is to know that not all fireflies fly . Some species do not have wings and, in others, only one sex does. In the case of Brazil, the most common firefly is Lampyris Noctiluca , a species in which only males fly.

Do fireflies light up during the day?

This species of beetle is known to be nocturnal, but there are also types of daytime fireflies. In this case, its luminosity is weakened, thus reducing its effects on reproduction.

These species of beetles use other strategies to defend and reproduce, similar to the methods used by common beetles.

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Other curiosities about fireflies

Fireflies’ habitats are usually places where there is a humid climate. Swamps, forests and wet and wooded areas are the main ones. In these places, the reproduction of the species becomes easier, as they are spaces where there is more food for the beetle’s larvae, such as fungi, slugs and snails.

The main predator of fireflies is the frog.

Fireflies can be found on every continent on the planet except Antarctica. Asia and South America are the regions where there is a predominance of bioluminescent insects, such as fireflies.


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