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Fireflies
June 29, 2009
Hi,

Blessings and a wonderful week to you.

Can you hardly stand it...............

July arrives this week.

The year is half gone.

My days begin to shrink :-(

Where does the time go?

Happy Canada Day to our Canadian friends on July 1st.


Happy Birthday Day to the United States of America on July 4th.

If you have plans, enjoy them, but please be safe.

WHOOOEEE.....................

Some heat wave this past week huh?

Well..............................

For some of us.

For some, the heat continues.

Yes, the heat even reached the Great Lakes.

Thankfully, we are having a cool down this week.

From the upper 90s (heat index in the 100's) to the low 70s.

A middle ground would be nice.

Be sure that your fur kids and other animals have plenty fresh water.

Keep your bird baths supplied as well.

Nature is so amazing, there really are no words to describe our Creator's work.

Last week I mentioned the Monarch butterfly and how I should be seeing them soon.

No sooner than the Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) started to bloom and there was a beautiful Monarch.

What timing.

What creation.

For a creature that has never seen my garden, yet knows how to and to when to arrive in Michigan.

Soon they will be everywhere, as the swamp milkweed and other species will soon be in bloom as well.

Every now and then, I get blessed with a bit of nature when I least expect it.

Something that is happening right now, not an event or something planned.

It may be witness to eggs hatching or last week, watching Cooper's hawk snatch a couple of sparrows in mid air.

Many of you know that I enjoy walks with my fur kids and in the heat, I take shorter walks in the late evening.

One evening this past week, Keet (Akita) and I were startled by this pretty good sized Snapping turtle that was busy laying her eggs.

We had time to finish our walk, go home and get the camera and take a couple of pictures.

I know.........

It wasn't what you would call spectacular, but still it is a natural event you don't see happening everyday.

The bank she is on is about 100 feet from the pond and is a frequent place for the turtles to lay.

Two nests have already been raided by some other animal, and I'm hoping this one survives.

It would be great to see turtles hatch and march to the pond.

Have you noticed a lack of bird activity during the heat?

Because birds body temperatures are in the 105 to 107 degree range, they don't over heat as fast as we will, but they aren't dumb.

Birds will lie low in the heat............

Find some shade.......

Take a nap.

Of course, parents and young still are busy.

If you notice birds flopped out with their wings spread or panting, don't worry.

These are a couple of ways that birds cool off.

They handle the heat better than we do.

Still, the softy that I am, I run the sprinkler near some shrubs and trees to allow some birds the pleasure of taking a fresh shower or leaf bath.

I will do this a few times a day when the temperatures soar.

If they are within ear shot of the sprinkler, they come flying in.

Especially the cardinals that enjoy a good leaf bath.

I must admit, I do it almost as much for my enjoyment as I do for the birds relief.

You may want to give it a try if you aren't under a watering ban.

Say, are you up for a summer favorites letter?

One where you the reader participate.

Send me your favorite things about summer.

Is it gardening and the flowers or produce?

Camping, fishing or cook outs?

Sports?

Spending time with family?

Nature and wildlife?

Along with your:

First Name

City or region you are in or near

Province or state you live in.

I'll collect your favs and in a couple of weeks, we'll have another hit letter where you are the author.

How does that sound?

Don't be shy, it only works when you participate.

I digress.

Another one of "Nature's" gifts are plentiful this time of year.

However, this time it is the night that is filled with wonders.

Flashing, blinking, wonders.

You may know them as Lightening bugs or Glow bugs.

That is the segway into today's topic.

That's right......................

Fireflies.

Enjoy.



Fireflies (Pyractomena borealis):

Fireflies, lightening bugs, glow bugs and I'm sure a few other names, tag this wondurous work of "Nature."

Many people associate the insect with their childhood memories and the simple, innocent pleasures of that time.

You may even remember chasing the tiny glowing bugs on warm summer evenings and collecting them in a Mason jar with air holes punched in the top.

Maybe even, keeping the jar full in your bedroom over night before you let them go.

You may have been a curious child like myself and smeared a few fireflies on your arms to see if you would glow in the dark.

You found out like I did that indeed, for a short period of time you did glow where the insect was smeared.

Not as bright however, but I did glow.

Pretty cool huh?

Fireflies are also luminescent in the larvae stage, and during this period of life, they are sometimes called "glowworms."

Now most anyone who ever observes a firefly as it twinkles in the darkness seems to wonder:

"How do they make the light?"

Fireflies are not completely understood and the light making process is complicated.

Their luminous glow is believed to come from their abdominal air tubes where a chemical called luciferin is activated in a chemical reaction with the substance luciferase.

A cold light is created by this chemical process.

In other words, all energy is put into light, not heat from the light like incandescent light bulbs where only 10% of the energy goes to light and the rest of the energy goes into heat.

The timing of the flash is believed to be due to the gas, nitric oxide, which controls delivery of oxygen to specialized light cells that use the oxygen to fuel chemical luminescence.

Each species of firefly has its own rhythm. The flash is actually a "love call" that helps fireflies find each other for mating.

If you have chased fireflies, you realize that you can disrupt the rhythm of the flashes.

When I'm chasing a firefly and I wave and miss, the beetle goes into stealth mode for several seconds.

Unless I can see the beetle in flight, I will lose contact and that is what the beetle is counting on.

Fireflies are found all over the world.

There are about 200 species of fireflies in the United States and Canada.

Photinus pyralis, is our most common firefly.

However, If you happen to live in the United States West of Kansas and Nebraska you are not likely to have flashing fireflies in your area.

Although some isolated sightings of luminous fireflies have been reported from time to time throughout the regions of the Western United States.

The reason for the regional distribution of this insect phenomenon is not known.

There are fireflies in the west, but few glow and blink.

Fireflies, unfortunately, have disappeared in many areas even though they thrive in others.

Once again, much has to do with the destruction of habitat, herbicides and insecticides.

In some instances there is a cycle of plenty some years to less for a period of time. Most firefly larvae are found in rotting wood or other forest litter or on the edges of streams and ponds at night.

You may also come across the larvae in a moist area of your gardens too.

Some Asian species are fully aquatic (due to the presence of tracheal gills) and live underwater, feeding on aquatic snails.

The larvae of several tropical firefly species in the genus Pyractomena are strictly arboreal, feed on arboreal snails and pupate while hanging under living leaves - similar to a butterfly chrysalis .

Adult fireflies are found in the same general habitats as their larvae and why not, they do breed and lay eggs there.

Generally speaking, the highest number of firefly species are found in warm, humid areas of the world.

Some species, however, are found in very arid regions of the world.

In these arid regions, larvae and adults can be readily found following rains.

The greatest number of firefly species (highest species diversity) are found in tropical Asia and Central and South America.

Fireflies flash for several reasons: to attract a mate, to warn other fireflies of danger and to convince predators that they're not tasty morsels. (Apparently the chemicals that make the light do taste bitter.)

Although other insects can produce light, fireflies are the only ones able to flash distinct signals.

For most of us, the most common species is Photinus pyralis, approximately 10 to 14 millimetres long--the males are larger than the females.

They are dark brown with orange and yellow accents and have dull yellow margins around their wing covers.

At dusk, the warmest part of the night, Photinus pyralis males cruise a few feet above the ground flashing for an hour or so, waiting for a female, sitting on vegetation below, to signal to Mr. Right.

The chosen male moves in slowly, his light dims, they meet.

A few days later, the female lays a hundred eggs or so just under the soil.

After three or four more weeks, slightly luminescent larvae emerge to feed voraciously on soft-bodied insects, slugs and snails-fireflies make good garden friends.

Notice the lavae attacking a slug in the picture to your right.

In fall, they burrow underground for winter.

In late spring or early summer, after living one or two years in the soil, each larva builds a marble-sized mud protection around itself and changes into a pupa.

And approximately ten days later, adult beetles emerge to eat pollen by daylight, twinkle by starlight and start the cycle over again.

Now here are some information you may not know about fireflies.



Firefly Larvae are predaceous and have been observed feeding mostly on earthworms, snails and slugs.

Larvae can detect a snail or slug slime trail, and follow it to the prey.

After locating their future meal, they inject an anesthetic type substance through hollow ducts in the firefly's mandibles into their prey in order to immobilize and eventually digest it.

Multiple larvae have also been observed attacking large prey items, such as large earthworms.

Other observations suggest larvae sometimes scavenge dead snails, worms and similar organic matter.

Adult Fireflies also have mouth parts suggestive of predation (long sickle-shaped mandibles).

Although it is widely known that fireflies of a few species mimic the mates of other species in order to attract and devour them, observations of adults feeding on other prey items are practically non-existent.

It is likely however, that adults might feed on plant nectar in order to sustain their energy requirements in the adult stage, which can last several months or longer).

By day, adult fireflies look like insignificant beetles (picture to your right).

In fact, you and your kids probably wouldn't recognize one if you saw it resting on a nearby leaf. After all, fireflies don't bite, carry disease or cause significant plant damage.

But when the sun goes down, they fascinate just about everyone, their twinkles lighting up the night.

There have been several reports about sick and dead pet lizards, where the owners fed the reptile firefly beetles and larvae.

This information lead scientists to the toxic nature of the beetles.

The toxins of the larvae remain in the adults killing off non native predators that lack immune systems or instincts to avoid the prey.



A Few Firefly Tidbits

A firefly is neither a fly, nor a bug. Rather, it is a beetle that belongs to Lampyridae family.

Firefly produces a cold light in its body, devoid of heat as well as any ultraviolet or infrared rays.

The light that emerges from the body of a firefly has a wavelength ranging from 510 to 670 nanometers and is pale reddish, yellowish or green in color.

Neither do fireflies bite, nor do they have pincers.

A firefly spends most of its lifespan as a larva. In the adult form, it survives for a very short span.

Female fireflies lay their eggs in the soil and even the latter are reported to glow in the dark.

After hatching, the larvae spend the summer eating tiny insects, larvae, and even slugs and snails.

After a firefly larva reaches adult stage, it usually stops feeding and survives on the nutrients built during the larva stage. Even when it does eat, it is mainly nectar or dew, for moisture.

The main aim of an adult firefly is to find a mate and lay eggs before dying.

Different species of fireflies have different communication system, based on the lighting patterns.

Fireflies produce light for three reasons - attracting mates, warning predators and telling other fireflies of danger.

Male and female firefly, both glow. However, their rhythmic flashing patterns depend upon the sex and the species.

We see fantastic examples of synchrony in the natural world all around us.

Here is a part of history that goes back a few years.

There were persistent reports when the first Western travelers went to southeast Asia, back to the time of Sir Francis Drake in the 1500s, of spectacular scenes along riverbanks, where thousands upon thousands of fireflies in the trees would all light up and go off simultaneously.

These kinds of reports kept coming back to the West, and were published in scientific journals, and people who hadn't seen it couldn't believe it.

Scientists said that this is a case of human mis-perception, that we're seeing patterns that don't exist, or that it's an optical illusion.

How could the fireflies, which are not very intelligent creatures, manage to coordinate their flashings in such a spectacular and vast way?

It's easy..............

'Nature' continues to amaze us with wonders we can't explain.

Never second guess Creation or its Creator.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

I hope you enjoyed this article on fireflies and maybe learned a thing or two.

Now, before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.



The influence of each human being on others in this life is a kind of immortality.

John Quincy Adams

Interesting words from a former president.

Words we can't really argue with or wonder if Congress will have to vote on.

How many times have you heard, or you your self said........

My Grandma or Grandpa would say this or do that......

Mom always said................

Advice passed on from generation to generation.

Your influence on everyone you come in contact with could very well be shared with others and be passed down to future generations.

What you say and do will influence others, especially your kids, grand kids and other young people.

You can make or break them.

Do you want to pass on greatness or be remembered as the ornery man or woman next door, at church, etc.

Your influence is helping to make the future (good or bad).

Are you helping to build positive creative minds?

Or, are you just getting by and passing on the negative waves.

Are you a person others want to be around?

Someone they enjoy and maybe, even tell you so.

Or, are you a person to avoid.

The crotchety, angry person no one wants to visit and then you wonder why?

What is your legacy going to be?

Will others talk about and pass on your positive teaching, your good nature, your ability to smile?

I want my legacy to be a positive one.

Not just the fact that I loved God and Nature.

But that I loved most people and shared with them.

I took the time to feel their sorrow as well as their joy.

I enjoy teaching and I try to be positive and an up lifter.

Pass these on to others and your legacy or 'kind of immortality' is something you will be happy to pass on and be remembered for.

Of course, you will teach and pass on the importance of always smiling.

How important a smile is when there are no words to say.

What will your 'kind of immortality' be.

I am sure, yours will be a positive one because you are the best.

Until next time my friend.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb


Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can recieve their own letters.


Gardening For Wildlife.


























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