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The Fireflies O'er The Meadow In Pulses Come And Go

By Tony Peregrin in News on Jul 3, 2012 4:40PM

Photo Credit: Lucy Rendler-Kaplan
Lightning bugs are back and flashing their Morse code signals across Chicago lawns, particularly on the Northwest side by the Des Plaines River and on the Southeast side by Hegewisch Marsh. As first reported by, and based on anecdotal testimonies on yelp, these luminescent critters (also known as fireflies) can be seen flying throughout the city’s swampy areas, fields, woods, streams, and yes, even in residential backyards.

Fireflies—a type of beetle—speak the language of light, which is to say they use flashes of bioluminescence to attract mates, defend their territory, and warn off predators.

“What looks like a single flash to us, if you took a high speed movie of it and played it back more slowly you would see a complex blinking pattern,” explained Doug Taron, curator of biology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum to

If fireflies were able to communicate with humans, they’d probably flash us a few, polite signals asking us to turn off the dang lights, add water features to landscape, plant trees, and refrain from over-mowing the lawn. (For more ideas on how to help encourage lightening bug activity go here.)

In case you were wondering, scientists have figured out a way to utilize the natural light of fire flies. In a study published in May, scientists at Syracuse University revealed how it is possible to harness lightening bug bioluminescence through the use of nanoscience technology—which means one day consumers may be able to purchase, say, a string of Christmas lights that don’t require electricity or batteries. Which is fab, but we like lightening bugs simply because they’re beautiful, and because their twinkling lights inspire everyone from poets to photographers—which reminds us, if you take any pictures of lightening bugs in action, send ‘em our way and we’ll post a gallery later this summer.