What Do Fireflies and Humans Have in Common? (SEX!!!)


I love summer. I love how every morning a tepid breeze creeps through my window, gently stirring me from sleep. I love walking bare foot on a soft carpet of grass and gazing at nature in her most seductive form. I even love summer rain.

And the first night I catch the twinkle of fire flies flitting about, creating their own little galaxy in my backyard, I squeal with delight. For me, nothing announces summer time like fireflies.

Last night as I stood watching them for a while (yay for moments of zen) I realized that I knew very little about the glow-in-the-dark creatures. Sure, I’ve captured a few in a mason jar (I promised I released them) but I never bothered to look into the true function of their “bioluminescent” tails.

So I headed to google, and was floored by what I found.

Mother nature has devised some really cool ways for animals to gain the attention of the opposite sex. From beautiful peacock feathers to towering antlers and 17 inch penises (in lake ducks, not humans silly), baroque beauty in nature almost always serves a reproductive purpose. Fireflies are no exception.

For fire flies, the night sky is a singles bar.

Most of the fireflies lighting up at night are males who are basically cruising the night sky for females with whom they can mate. When a male firefly flashes, he’s basically turning his love light on, and signaling to the females out there that he’s looking to mate. The females only flash back if they find the particular firefly attractive. Hence, the light show we see on summer nights is a mating ritual, a romantic call-and-response.

It isn’t all romance though. The mating game is dangerous, especially for male fireflies who must avoid deadly  “femme fatales” fireflies, females belonging to the Photuris family.  Photuris females   can mimic the signature flash patterns of other species. But once the male is seduced, and  lands next to a Photuris female, she eats him!

It goes without saying that fireflies and humans have a bit in common.

Male fireflies are essentially playing a game of odds. He turns his love light on for all to see, and hopes to attract a willing female.

They are a lot like those men that will flirt with anything in a skirt, from the ratchet to regal, in hopes of making at least one connection.

And like women, female fire flies prefer males who can go long and fast… that is, males with the  longest flashes and the fastest flash rhythms. But beware. Every night these flashy fireflies are towing a fine line between sex and death because it just so happens that the males who attract the most admirers, are also the most likely to be devoured by a “femme fatale”.


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