KALAMAZOO, MICH. — Whether you call them fireflies or lightning bugs, the beautiful, bioluminescent beetles are about to get lit — just like the 90-degree high temperatures in Kalamazoo from June 4-6.
A three-day-stretch of 90s officially marked the first heat wave of 2021, and unofficially marked the blinking of bioluminescent butts.
“They’re really a summertime phenomenon,” said Rose Pest Solutions Entomologist Mark VanderWerp. “Just like most insects, they need heat to operate. Their body temperature mimics the environmental temperature.”
In other words, when the temperature goes up, the adult fireflies come out.
“They get most active late June through July,” said VanderWerp. “That’s their peak window, where you get the best light shows at night.”
But what does all that flickering mean.
“Male fireflies are calling to any receptive females in the area. They’re saying, ‘Hey, here I am. Look at this bright, shiny light I have. Do you want to mate with me?'” VanderWerp said. “And if a female sees that signal, and says, ‘Oh yeah. He looks pretty good,’ then she can signal back.”
VanderWerp said light pollution can really kill the mood for the mating beetles, and distract the blinking bugs from find their soulmate. Not only does that dim the natural fireworks display, but it may also disrupt a fireflies role in our ecosystem.
“They are beneficial insects in that the larvae are generally predators on pest species like snails and slugs,” said VanderWerp. “The adults that feed are often pollen feeders, so they may provide a small role in pollination.”