Most firefly species employ characteristic patterns of bioluminescent flashes to elicit responses from potential mates.
You are accessing a resource from the BioInteractive Archive. Archived resources are not updated to reflect current scientific knowledge, technology, and/or pedagogy.
Fireflies are beetles (Coleoptera) that belong to the family Lampyridae, and most of the 2,000 species utilize bioluminescence at some stage of their life cycle—usually during courtship behavior. Each species has a distinctive pattern of flashes which can vary in different ways—including the number, the length and the time between flashes. Other variables might include the time when the animals signal, the flight pattern of the males, the outside temperature and even the color of the flashes. There are a few species such as the Photuris sp. (pictured here) that mimic the flash patterns of others—usually females who are looking to select a tasty supper of a male of another species rather than a mate from its own.
The image was collected in a field in Fairfield, Iowa using a digital SLR camera with a macro lens and a tripod. Tremendous patience is required to capture an image of a firefly in almost complete darkness while it flashes. No digital manipulation was used when creating this image.
Radim Schreiber, Firefly Experience, Fairfield, Iowa, USA.