It is difficult to imagine a more beautiful scene than a balmy summer night, the darkness punctuated with the flickering glow of lightning bugs. Whether capturing these glimmering insects in jars or enjoying the advantages they bring to the garden, you can attract these beneficial insects and help ensure their survival.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Some good ways to attract lightning bugs as beneficial insects in gardens and yards include eliminating chemical pesticides, leaving grass uncut, reducing light that reaches the garden and allowing fallen leaves to accumulate because these are ideal places for lightning bugs to find food.
What Are Lightning Bugs?
Lightning bugs, or fireflies, belong to the scientific family Lampyridae. These omnivorous invertebrates only live for about two months – but those two months are bright ones. The nocturnal, winged beetles get their names from their bioluminescence, or glow. Below the abdomen, each lightning bug has an organ that combines oxygen with luciferin to make an almost heat-free light that the bug can flash in patterns. Each of the approximately 2,000 species of firefly insect use a different pattern of flashing to attract mates and defend against predators.
Benefits of Lightning Bugs
Lightning bugs are beautiful to watch, fun to catch and serve as beneficial insects for any garden. Firefly insects don’t cause harm as they don’t bite and don’t carry poison or disease. They also perform a valuable service to gardeners because they are predatory and eat pest insects that cause problems. These include snails, slugs and insect larvae. Even more interesting, the rare chemicals that enable the glow of the lightning bug – luciferin and the related enzyme luciferase – are useful in research for human diseases, such as:
- cystic fibrosis
- heart disease
- multiple sclerosis
How to Attract Lightning Bugs
Unfortunately, humans are not as beneficial for lightning bugs; environmental issues like forest clearing, light pollution, toxic chemical application and wetland destruction are responsible for diminishing numbers of firefly bugs. However, making gardens and backyard habitats more appealing for the glowing beetles may attract lightning bugs to the area.
To do this, gardeners should stop using chemical fertilizers, which cause harm to firefly insects and their prey. Instead, they can use natural fertilizers derived from animal manure or fish remains. It is also important to provide a moist, dark environment to attract fireflies. This includes keeping grass slightly longer to shade lightning bugs during the day and retain the moisture they prefer. At night, minimizing outside lights and closing curtains to shield interior light help make the yard a suitable place for lightning bugs to find each other. Another way to attract lightning bugs is to allow fallen leaves to accumulate in some areas because this decaying plant matter appeals to the insects that firefly bugs consume.
- The lightning bug flashes not only to attract a mate, but the University of Delaware Extension explains that they also flash to warn other insect predators that they are not tasty.
- Starting a habitat for lightning bugs can be beneficial to you because the young larvae feed on slugs and decaying matter.
- If you have exotic pets, such as lizards, do not let them eat lightning bugs because they can be toxic and deadly to reptiles.
About the Author
Melissa Mayer is an eclectic science writer with experience in the fields of molecular biology, proteomics, genomics, microbiology, biobanking and food science. In the niche of science and medical writing, her work includes five years with Thermo Scientific (Accelerating Science blogs), SomaLogic, Mental Floss, the Society for Neuroscience and Healthline. She has also served as interim associate editor for a glossy trade magazine read by pathologists, Clinical Lab Products, and wrote a non-fiction YA book (Coping with Date Rape and Acquaintance Rape). She has two books forthcoming covering the neuroscience of mental health.