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Pennsylvania Firefly (Photuris pensylvanica)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Pennsylvania Firefly.

 Updated: 6/19/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




Summer evenings are made brighter by the Pennsylvania Firefly, but that doesn't mean better for every male firefly in the area.



On dry summer nights, the Pennsylvania Firefly emits a yellow-green glimmer of light every few seconds. The light comes from an enzyme called luciferase and produces virtually no heat. The ability for a living organism to produce light is called bioluminescence. This flashing light signal is meant to attract members of the opposite sex. If a pair successfully finds each other, they mate and a population continues to exist in that area. Sometimes, and deliberately, the female's signal attracts members of a different genus. Careless males from the genus Photinus find this a costly mistake. If males respond and approach females from the Photuris genus, they are killed and eaten by the female. Consuming the males allows the females to absorb a steroid naturally found in the Photinus males. Females that had high levels of this steroid, lucibufagin, in their own system became less appetizing to jumping spiders that attacked them. One small taste of lucibufagin was enough to deter the jumping spider from continuing to attack or eat the female. Longer life means more opportunities to reproduce, so the mimicry pays off for the whole Pennsylvania Firefly species.

Pennsylvania Fireflies look similar to Big Dipper Firefly. An easy way to differentiate them is by examining the elytra (the black wing coverings). Pennsylvania Fireflies have a thin stripe of orange or yellow that stretches from the 'shoulder' down to the bottom of the elytra. The thorax (shoulder plate) is yellow around the edges and has a black mark in the center with two red spots on either side of it.

This species of firefly eats other insects in addition to the males of Photinus. Smaller bugs, snails and worms comprise its diet. This particular species has been named the state insect of Pennsylvania.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Lampyridae
          Genus: Photuris
            Species: pensylvanica
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Photuris pensylvanica
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 8mm to 10mm (0.31in to 0.39in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, red, yellow, ivory, orange
Descriptors: bug, light, bright, night, flashing, glimmer, flying, harmless, dusk, neon
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
State of Alabama graphic
State of Arizona graphic
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State of California graphic
State of Colorado graphic
State of Delware graphic
State of Florida graphic
State of Georgia graphic
State of Idaho graphic
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State of New Mexico graphic
State of New York graphic
State of North Carolina graphic
State of North Dakota graphic
State of Ohio graphic
State of Oklahoma graphic
State of Oregon graphic
State of Pennsylvania graphic
State of South Carolina graphic
State of South Dakota graphic
State of Tennessee graphic
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State of Utah graphic
State of Virginia graphic
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State of Wisconsin graphic
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Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic


Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Canadian National Flag Graphic
Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.




Beetle Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American Beetle insect
1
Antennae: Beetles have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and mandibles (jaws).
3
Thorax: Holds the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
4
Elytron: One of two wing cases on a Beetle that protects its wings (plural: elytra).
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Wings: Appendages used for flying and kept under the elytra until needed.
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Abdomen: Houses organs related to circulation, reproduction, and excretion.
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Legs: Beetles have three pairs of legs located at the thorax, numbering six legs in all.