Firefly (Photuris spp.)
Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Firefly.
Updated: 7/13/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Common Name: Firefly
Other Name(s): Lightening Bug
Scientific Name: Photuris spp.
Size (Adult; Length): 10mm to 20mm (0.39in to 0.78in)
Identifying Colors: black, yellow, red
Additional Identifiers: light, glow, bright, harmless, flying, twinkle, lightening bug, lightning bug
North America has a variety of Fireflies that light up the night with their cool blink of illumination.
The genus Photuris contains a myriad of species of Fireflies. These small beetles are completely harmless to people and are often caught for closer inspection. The abdomen is yellow and contains chemicals that allow the insect to phosphoresce. Most species illuminate in shades or green or blue, but a few species flash orange or red. The timing pattern of each species' blinking differs, which can help them differentiate between other species in the same area. One species, the Pennsylvania Firefly, mimics the timing of another genus in order to lure males so they can eat them.
After mating, eggs are laid in tree canopies, far from human eyes. Little is known about the early life stage of Fireflies because of this reason. This is a wonderful insect to introduce to children. Fireflies are gentle and stoke curiosity thanks to their bioluminescence. They are slow walkers, but difficult to catch in flight. Once caught, Fireflies walk to the highest point in order to take flight again. This often means one will leisurely walk all the way to the tip of a raised finger before launching. It would be difficult to find a friendlier insect on a warm summer night.