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Insect Activities

Firefly Activity

Fireflies are nature's flashlight.
Fireflies are nature's flashlight.

How do fireflies (otherwise known as "lightning bugs") glow in the dark? Try this firefly activity to find out.

What You'll Need:

  • Net
  • Bug jar
  • Digital watch
  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Flashlight
  • Aquarium
  • Mesh

On summer evenings, you might see fireflies flashing their lights. Catch a firefly with an insect net or with your hands. They tend to fly slowly, so they are not difficult to catch.




Step 1: Place the firefly in the bug jar and observe. Which part of its body produces the light? What color is the light?

Step 2: Use your digital watch to log the time between flashes. Do this for 10 minutes. What is the average amount of time between flashes?

Step 3: Now shine a flashlight on your firefly. Log the time between flashes. Do this for 10 minutes. How does shining the light affect the bug's flashes?

Step 4: Obtain more fireflies, and place them in an aquarium covered with mesh. Are there any patterns to their flashing?

Don't keep fireflies for more than a day. Be sure to release them where you found them.

What Happened?

The firefly is a beetle that produces light in its abdomen. It produces the glow from a chemical called luciferin. Fireflies regulate the light by controlling how much oxygen reaches the luciferin.

Different species use different light-flashing patterns. The main purpose of the light seems to be to attract mates. If you shine a light on the bug, it will light either less frequently or not at all.

Fun Fact

Larvae of many types of fireflies feed on snails. Ick!

Another Fun Fact

Bioluminescence is the production of cold light by living organisms. In addition to fireflies, other ­organisms such as fungi, squid, and even jellyfish can produce their own light!

On the next page you will find Insect Word Game Answers. Don't look at the answers before you try the insect word game puzzle!

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