The glow of love in the garden

If I am lucky I can catch an hour in the garden after work on weeknights.

This is the best place to be for many reasons. It’s cooler than working in the beating sun of the afternoon. I usually see butterflies and hummingbirds visiting my plants.

And I see lightning bugs.

There is nothing like the sudden glow of a lightning bug to take you back to your carefree days of youth. Those were the days when we didn’t care about housework, making dinner and paying bills. All we cared about was meeting the neighborhood kids for one last hour of daylight before we had to take a bath and get ready for bed.

Appropriately named fireflies, they are actually winged beetles.

There are about 2,000 firefly species. The Photuris pennsylvanica  is actually the official state insect of Pennsylvania Ha! I bet you thought it was the mosquito.

The bug is about the size of a paper clip.

What you’re really witnessing when you see them light up is a mating game. Yes, fireflies swarm around with a specific mission, to feed, mate and lay eggs. This is accomplished by communicating with each other with light from their underbellies.


Female fireflies wait on a tree branch or in the grass while the males fly around showing off their best flashes. When a female recognizes the flash, she will answer with a flash.

So those flashes are like a wink, or the Firefly’s Morse Code of love.

We could go through a complicated explanation of how they light up, but here is a simple one

Fireflies contain an organic compound in their abdomens called luciferin. As air rushes into the abdomen, it reacts with the luciferin. A chemical reaction gives off the familiar glow of a firefly.

There you have it.

Next time you can grab a few minutes at night, go outside and experience the wonder of the firefly.

Don your gloves and pull a few weeds. You know you have them.

 But don’t forget insect repellent. There’s this little bug called a mosquito…


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