Lightning Bugs

It’s Lightning Bug season here in southern Ohio. They are some of my favorite insects!

They’re not bees, by any means. ย But they certainly are entertaining!

Flashing Lightning Bugs are trying to attract mates. Among most but not all species of North American Lightning Bugs, males fly about flashing while females perch on vegetation, usually near the ground. If the female sees a flasher and she’s ready to mate she responds by flashing right after the male’s last flash. A short flash dialogue takes place as the male flies closer and closer, and then, if all goes well, they mate.

So that a flasher doesn’t attract a firefly of a different species, each Lightning Bug species has its own special flash pattern. Flash patterns range from continuous glows or single flashes, to series of multi-pulsed flashes.

Among some species both males and females flash, but among others only the members of one sex do it. Some Lightning Bug species don’t flash at all. All known firefly larvae, which are wingless and mostly live on the ground and under bark, produce light. If you see only a glow on the ground, it can be tricky deciding whether you’re seeing a firefly larva, a glow-worm, or some other luminescent insect.


Lightning Bug larvae live on the ground, under bark, and in moist swampy places. They eat earthworms, snails and slugs, plus they may scavenge certain small dead animals and other organic material . They have been seen following slime trails to their slug and snail victims. Lightning Bug larvae have sickle-shaped mandibles with which they can inject a kind of chemical that paralyzes their prey and helps digest it. Several larvae have been seen attacking large prey together.

Adult Lightning Bugs, who can live for several months, probably feed on plant nectar. A few adult Lightning Bug species practice an especially tricky kind of cannibalism. Already-mated females emit flashes similar to the female responses to male Lightning Bugs of other species. When the male of the other species lands, the female emitting the false flashes pounces on the poor male and eats him!


Lightning Bugs are the same as Fireflies. They are members of a particular family of the Beetle Order. The Firefly Family is technically known as the Lampyridae.

26 thoughts on “Lightning Bugs

  1. jmgoyder says:

    Fascinating! We don’t have them here.

  2. What a lovely blog site you have here! Thanks for this fascinating article about lightning bugs and the way you see beauty in these little creatures!

  3. dineonysus says:

    WOW…. lovely… I wish we had lighty up insect things in Scotland ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. oceannah says:

    My husband brought me outside last night to stand in the garden and watch the lightning bugs. Romantic. What’s not to like about a critter with the amazing adaptation of lighting your arse up in the night, course the gals in the grass get to light up their entire selves ๐Ÿ˜‰ Amazing.

  5. putneyfarm says:

    Lovely post. We grew up with the fireflies back east, but do not have them on the west coast. Such a sign of summer…

  6. PJ Girl says:

    I’m so envious as these must be the most delightful little bugs! I really enjoyed all the information… you won’t see any in London when you come!

  7. Deborah, I found this so fascinating…, seeing fireflies is definitely on my bucket list… having lived in England as a child then relocated to the West Coast of the US for my adult years, I have yet to experience these miraculous little creatures… thank you for sharing…

  8. Emily Heath says:

    So lovely… Apart from the poor unsuspecting males, expecting romance and getting eaten instead!

  9. Lion2Lamb says:

    That’s Pretty Cool. I’m actually from Southern Ohio as well. I miss it dearly during spring, summer, and fall, but I can skip winter any day. I remember catching those fireflies in mason jars every year, and sadly for them, i used to squash their lightning goop to make face paint too! Poor things…

  10. […] Lightning Bugs ( […]

  11. solarbeez says:

    I’ve never seen a lightning bug. How fortunate you are. We’ve got plenty of slugs for them here on the Oregon Coast if they decide to migrate.

  12. alshamma says:

    I love lightning bugs, they are magical. We don’t have them here on the West Coast, but we would see them when visiting my grandparents in New Jersey.

  13. […] Photo from Romancing the Bee […]

  14. Lovely, magical, wonder.

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