In Buzz

Fireflies are horny and harmless. (PHOTO: Royal Brevvaxling)

Flash on, flash off: 5 fun firefly facts

Not all Milwaukee neighborhoods have fireflies, but those that do are pretty lit up right now with flying, blinking "bugs" looking for love. (More on that later.)

Personally, I've lived in a few Milwaukee neighborhoods / suburbs – Shorewood, Riverwest and Rufus King – but it wasn't until I moved to Walker's Point almost a decade ago that I saw so many fireflies, also known as "lightning bugs." I also have magical memories of these pyrotechnic bugs from when I was a child and visiting my grandparents in Illinois.

A quick search on Google provided a font of fascinating info about these pyrotechnic lil' guys and inspired me to track down a local entomologist to find out more.

Thelma Heidel-Baker is the scientist in residence at Riveredge Nature Center and holds a Ph.D. in entomology. She says the places with the most fireflies have the most firefly-friendly habitats, which include waterways / moist areas, vegetation, tress and the the right creatures – mainly slugs – for them to feed on.

In Wisconsin, according to Heidel-Baker, there are three kinds of fireflies: daytime fireflies (they do not glow or flash), night fireflies that do flash and glowworms, non-flying female fireflies that live on the soil, and they live here all year 'round but are in larvae form for 1-2 years and only emerge as full-on fireflies in the summer.

Heidel-Baker also contributed to the list of five fun facts about fireflies, so if you wanna geek out for a minute, here we go:

  • Fireflies do not sting, bite nor carry disease.
  • They blink as part of their mating ritual and to attract mates. The males usually flash first and then wait for the females to flash back.
  • The lights also ward off predators because the chemicals that create the bioluminescence are unappealing and / or harmful.
  • Fireflies are a type of beetle with more than 2,000 different species.
  • There is not a confirmed firefly season in Wisconsin, but they appear sometime in June and are gone usually by mid- to late-August.

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