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Fireflies and more
July 05, 2011

I hope you enjoyed your Holiday weekend.

As much as we complain about our governments and politics, we still live in some pretty special places.

I for one, Thank God for the freedoms we have and for those that gave their lives and the millions that have put their lives on the line so we can speak our minds and are free to choose where we live, work and worship.

Many of you fall into that list and I want to say this.

Thank You from the depths of my heart.

The Patterson House was pretty laid back over the weekend.

We did see some Fireworks and had some family over, but other than that...............

We stayed put, as we always seem to have something going on.

It even felt like summer.

Now comes reality.

My dad always said that summer flies by or that it is all down hill from here.

It seems that way, doesn't it?

We have this huge build up or waiting for spring and summer to come and before you know it, it is September.

Enjoy the summer and never wish a single day to go by.

Take every day as the treasure it is.

The picture above is the 'Seul Choix' lighthouse in the north shore of Lake Michigan (near the little town of Gulliver).

The only working light on the north shore and in my limited lighthouse experience, the prettiest one I have seen.

Not only the light tower and house, but the grounds and outer buildings were well maintained.

The artifacts and history are second to none.

(Cat Nap)

At the bottom are a couple of tiger pictures from our trip to the zoo a couple weeks ago.

The face of the Siberian tiger .......................

One beautiful cat.

Up to 800 lbs. of him.

The female cat is a Sumatran Tiger.


We learned that the closer to the Equator, the lighter the coloration and strips on tigers become.

On our way back home, we spent another night in St. Ignace, MI. where they were preparing for an antique car show.

I had to stop and get a picture of Sheriff Andy's patrol car from Mayberry N.C.

The was an old police hat and of course, a sign in the window that said "Fife"

The Green herons youngsters are still hanging around, though I expect them to leave any day now.

I finally captured a picture of all three youngsters standing on top of this shrub.

What do you think ..........

Larry, Moe and Curly?

These birds have been quite a joy and learning experience for us.

To watch a young Green observing the world around them.

They notice every little movement it seems.

From other birds that fly in to the squirrels and chipmunks.

To observe the natural pose as they get ready to pounce and a passing insect or some other movement nearby.

Yes, the herons have been a real treat and will be missed when they do become official fledglings.

It's the first part of the month, that means it is time to give your feeders a thorough cleaning and sanitizing.

Hummingbird feeders need to be cleaned well every couple of days and fresh sugar water to replace the old.

Unless you have a bunch of hummers and your feeders empty on you, there is no need to fill them full.

Typically a few ounces is more than enough and still, many of you will be tossing out the old.

Click on the link below for more information on birdbaths and how to maintain them.

Don't forget to keep your water sources clean and filled with fresh water, especially in the heat of summer.

Of course, there is always the water required for your pets and farm animals.

This time of year offers up another treat for for me and indeed brings back childhood memories.

Because I live near a pond, creek and marsh, there is no lack of Fireflies.

On night time walks with Keet (Akita), I get to enjoy the flickers and flashes of light that fill the night this time of year.

When there is enough wind to keep the skeeters away, we can sit on the deck and even have a few land on us.

This week's topic is of course on Fireflies.

For some of you this may seem like an instant replay from a couple of years ago, yet still a refresher is a good thing.

For many of you, this is probably a new topic.

If you live in the west, you may say "who cares."

No matter, this is a bit long so sit back and enjoy.

Fireflies (Pyractomena borealis):

Fireflies, lightening bugs, glow bugs and I'm sure a few other names, tag this wondrous 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 and release them the following morning.

Campers and star gazers alike will end up spending time watching the little bug that glows in the dark.

Life spans are short and not everyone gets to experience Fireflies like many of us do.

If you are traveling or on vacation (holiday), you may witness one of 'Nature's' wonders that you may not see at home.

If you are a city dweller, or live where you don't see too many of these insects, then take an evening drive to a nearby marsh or wetland.

But hurry, Firefly season is only a few short weeks in the summer and is going on right now.

"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.

In some instances there is a cycle of plenty and some years less for a period of time.

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.

In our temperate regions, you will find the highest concentration near ponds and streams, swamps, bogs and wetlands.

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

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.

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

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, our 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.

Yes, you could add Fireflies to your list of beneficial insects.

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.

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 predacious 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.

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.

Notice the larvae attacking a slug in the picture to your right and above.

This give the larvae the name of 'Glow Worm'

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.

And they don't feed on your plants.

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.

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.

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

A Few Firefly Tidbits:

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 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 misperception, that we're seeing patterns that don't exist, or that it's an optical illusion.

After all, how could the fireflies, which are not very intelligent creatures, manage to coordinate their flashing's in such a spectacular and vast way?

It Happens ..............

'Nature' continues to amaze us with wonders we can't explain, even in the insect world

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.

“If I must choose between peace and righteousness, I choose righteousness”

Theodore Roosevelt

Now here is why ................................

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.

Proverbs 4:18-19

"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 receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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