Then They Were Lightning Bugs


We called them lightning bugs. Not fireflies.

Back in the day. My childhood days, that is. 

I couldn't wait for dark because then they'd glow and I could chase them. Who knows why children are so fond of chasing things? 

I watch Andrew and his little legs run and run and run. Rarely does he walk. 

He seems in such a hurry, his chubby legs getting longer and longer as he grows out of toddler-hood. Like he's in such a hurry to grow up and out of my lap.

It just all goes by so fast, doesn't it?


Want to know some interesting lightning bug/firefly facts?

1. Fireflies talk to each other with light.

2. Fireflies produce "cold light." The most efficient lights in the world.

3. Firefly eggs glow. 

4. Fireflies eat other fireflies.

5. Fireflies have short lifespans.

6. Fireflies imitate each other.

7. Fireflies are found on almost every continent.

8. Fireflies are medically and scientifically useful.

9. Fireflies don't make tasty prey.

If you want to read more in-depth info about them, click here.


Oddly enough, I went many years without seeing fireflies. 

Then just a week or so ago, I was standing at the patio door and there one was, blinking at me in the darkness. 

It was at that moment that the words "lightning bugs" popped into my mind. 

Not fireflies, as I've called them my whole adult life.

Isn't it funny how seeing or smelling or hearing something reaches down into our deep well of memories and summons up a fact clear as day? Like magic.

Sixty years old and that memory was filed away all this time, just waiting for the right moment to remind me.



ome species of firefly larvae are generally aquatic—they even have gills—while others live almost entirely in trees.

Fireflies are medically and scientifically useful.

The two chemicals found in a firefly's tail, luciferase and luciferin, light up in the presence of ATP. Every animal has ATP in its cells in amounts that are more or less constant—or should be. In diseased cells, the amount of ATP may be abnormal. If the chemicals from fireflies are injected into diseased cells, they can detect changes in cells that can be used to study many diseases, from cancer to muscular dystrophy.
But that's not all they're used for. Electronic detectors built with these chemicals have been fitted into spacecraft to detect life in outer space, as well as food spoilage and bacterial contamination on earth.

Fireflies don't make tasty prey.

When attacked, fireflies shed drops of blood in a process known as “reflex bleeding.” The blood contains chemicals that taste bitter and can be poisonous to some animals. Because of this, many animals learn to avoid eating fireflies. Pet owners should never feed fireflies to lizards, snakes and other reptilian pets.
ome species of firefly larvae are generally aquatic—they even have gills—while others live almost entirely in trees.

Fireflies are medically and scientifically useful.

The two chemicals found in a firefly's tail, luciferase and luciferin, light up in the presence of ATP. Every animal has ATP in its cells in amounts that are more or less constant—or should be. In diseased cells, the amount of ATP may be abnormal. If the chemicals from fireflies are injected into diseased cells, they can detect changes in cells that can be used to study many diseases, from cancer to muscular dystrophy.
But that's not all they're used for. Electronic detectors built with these chemicals have been fitted into spacecraft to detect life in outer space, as well as food spoilage and bacterial contamination on earth.

Fireflies don't make tasty prey.

When attacked, fireflies shed drops of blood in a process known as “reflex bleeding.” The blood contains chemicals that taste bitter and can be poisonous to some animals. Because of this, many animals learn to avoid eating fireflies. Pet owners should never feed fireflies to lizards, snakes and other reptilian pets.I suppose chasing lightning bugs was so amusing because just as I'd reach out my hand to grab onto one, the light would blink off and it was invisible again.Like chasing a ghost or grabbing at air. 
Like chasing a ghost. Or grabbing at air.

Or long ago memories that rise to the surface when we least expect them to.
 
Now every night I go back to the patio door to watch for them again. I stand there and remember those days of being a little girl. 

Running round and round the house chasing lightning bugs till I wore myself out. 

Back when we called them lightning bugs instead of fireflies.



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23 comments

  1. We called them lightning bugs too.. still do! We would punch holes in jar lids with a screw driver and put some grass in it and catch them - and watch them light up the jar. Then let them go before going to bed because we learned they don't live there very long.

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  2. I called them lightening bugs too! Thanks for the great memories.

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  3. Yes .... we loved chasing "lightening bugs" too!! Those were the days.

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  4. We called them lightning bugs too, and we used to chase around the neighborhood, catching them and putting them in jars with grass. How cruel we were, in hindsight! But I do remember the warm summer nights, running in the dusk and the dark. Wonderful memories.

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  5. Oh, my goodness, Brenda--it's like you read my mind! I sat on my little balcony last night soaking in the cool night air and just watching the lightning bugs put on quite a show. (In my mind, they were more spectacular than the loud, booming fireworks going off in the distance. Ha!) Anyway, I tried to recall how many times I had actually seen these phenomenal little insects in my lifetime. Twice maybe? And then I couldn't for the life of me recall if they were called fireflies or lightning bugs, and could the terms be used interchangeably? You saved me the time of looking all this up! LOL What can I say? Great minds think alike!

    It's so nice to have the time to read your lovely blog again. I have dearly missed you and the pupsters during the wild, hectic school year! :) Have a wonderful weekend!

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  6. We called them lighting bugs also. I saw some the other evening as I was leaving my daughter's house. My Grands love to chase them.

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  7. Lovely post - and we called 'em lightning bugs too! I think I'll start doing that again, lol. Lots of them were out these last few very hot and humid evenings in Pennsylvania, Chester county not far from Philly.
    Mary

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  8. We, also, called them lightning-bugs. I, with my neighborhood kids, were allowed to chase them all around the neighborhood at night, out in the streets unbelievably, but at that place in time there were not that many vehicles coming down our streets at night (imagine that!). Put them in Mason jars with a little grass, too, and counted everyone's to see who got the most and let them go-except for the one I smushed on my ring finger to make a glow-in-the-dark ring. Didn't know any better...

    We would sometimes lay on our backs out on the front yard grass on an old quilt or blanket and count the stars (sometimes Mama would lay with us) because it was cooler out there than inside on a hot summer night in Texas.

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  9. I was born in Nebraska and lived there until I was around 10. I loved the "lightening bugs," and used to catch them in a jar. I have never seen them since moving to the west coast. Every child should experience the joy of chasing and catching them. Thanks for the memory.

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  10. We always called them lightning bugs too. I haven't seen any since we moved from Illinois when I was 5, but I can still remember catching them like you did--and the way they smell. As you say..old memories just waiting to be reawakened.

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  11. Isn't it wonderful to be able to enjoy the simple things in life like lightning bugs! Like you I have been thinking about them more this year, maybe because we seem to have more than we have seen in a while. Some years I barely see any but this summer they have taken me back to my youth quite often! Thank you for your lovely posts - I love being able to share the enjoyment of things like this with others! Have a safe and happy holiday Brenda!

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  12. Reminds me of a true story about my two great-nieces, one a 5 year old girly girl, and one a 6 year old rough and tumble tomboy. They had caught some lightning bugs and put them in a jar. The younger one said, "let's let them go, now". The older one said, "no....let's pull their butts off".

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  13. I grew up and live in the Pacific Northwest and had never seen a lightning bug. When my girls were little we were on vacation in Florida and I saw my first ones. It was the highlight of that vacation for me. Funny how ordinary things in one region of this country are so extraordinary to visitors from another.

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  14. Here in Missouri we still call them lightening bugs! One of my best childhood memories is of chasing lightening bugs every summer night with the other neighborhood kids. My grandkids enjoy chasing them now. :-)

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  15. Here in Southwestern Pa we ALWAYS called them lightning bugs! :) I remember growing up in the country and our house was on a hill...next door was my grandparents and there was a large level flat area next to their house that we used for games...mother may I and simon says, baseball, badminton and catching lightning bugs :)

    Later on when my boys were growing up, with a creek below us, I will NEVER forget the time that my boys and the neighborhood boys brought a frog or toad INTO my house, proudly displaying the lightning bug inside it, glowing.

    No wonder I am so thrilled to have some girl grandkids along with the boys, just saying

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  16. I finally saw my first fireflies or lightning bugs on a trip to France. In the Northwest where I live, I don't believe they exist. Nice post Brenda.

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  17. I had never seen lightening bugs until I was about 6 years old and my family was visiting relatives in Lincoln Nebraska. I was astounded!
    After living in Canada for fifty years I had not seen one until last summer! It was out at a lake. I was astounded once again at the little insect flying around with a light inside of them.
    Interesting facts you found!

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  18. Sweet post, Brenda. I think I've always called those little insects lightening bugs. They are fascinating little creations, aren't they? I think children run everywhere because they have short legs and it takes too much time to get somewhere just walking. Because their strides are so much shorter than adults' are. But it also may have something to do with the fact that they are curious about everything and impatient to learn about the world which is still new to them. Just my theory. Wonder what they would say if we asked them that question.

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  19. This is beautifully written.
    You have taken me back, too, to steamy, sticky summer nights spent running around madly with my little brothers, chasing lightning bugs (also our term). Magical moments.

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  20. I was once again a young girl just reading this, Brenda. How we loved lightning bugs, although I guess fireflies is a prettier name. And then there was the sweet time of teaching my own children to love them too. I remember one son telling me one morning at breakfast that one was loose in his bedroom during the night and he loved watching it being his night light.

    However, I've found that when one happens to be in my bedroom at night now that I can't sleep. Much as when a cricket is in my bedroom, I can't rest until I remove it. Oh, to be a child again!

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  21. Thank you for the trip down Memory Lane. Such a sweet post.

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