How Does a Firefly Make Its Light?

Sitting outside on summer evenings, you may have wondered how fireflies make those bright little flashes of light.

how does a firefly make its light

To begin with, the firefly is not a fly, it is a beetle. And inside that beetle’s stomach are five chemicals.

When oxygen enters the firefly’s body, it stimulates a nerve reaction which causes those five chemicals to combine. This turns the light on. Several seconds later, another chemical combines with the others and turns the light off.

Fireflies use their flashing lights as a mating signal. The male flies about at night, flashing his light. The female usually waits in the grass for the male’s signal, then answers him by flashing her own light.

Can you imagine, Men traveling through dense tropical forests often collect fireflies in jars and use them as lanterns, while women in Cuba and other tropical countries pin live fireflies on their gowns or hang them around their necks on chains as decorations.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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