|MadSci Network: Zoology|
Dear Heather: As you are probably aware, fireflies are actually not flies at all, but a type of beetle (Coleoptera). The fireflies belong to a family of beetles called Lampyridae. They are distinguished by their ability to generate flashes of light by causing a chemical reaction in their abdomens. This chemical reaction occurs when the firefly combines luciferin plus the enzyme luciferase in the presence of oxygen. The flashes of light that result are used to attract mates, or in the case of at least one species, to lure males of other firefly species their death at the hands of a predatory female waiting on the ground. All fireflies are predators, eating other insects and small invertebrates. There are about 200 species of fireflies in North America, that come in a range of colors and patterns (and flashing patterns!). For some more pictures of and information about fireflies, consult: RE White 1983 A Field Guide to Beetles of North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. And the links: Coleoptera:Lampyridae Georgia Fireflies Fireflyer Companion - a firefly newsletter Enjoy! Ingrid :)
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