nothing-without-science:

Facts About Fireflies

  • Fireflies talk to each other with light.

Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. In most, however, both sexes glow; often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees, shrubs and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she’ll signal it with a flash of her own.

  • Fireflies produce “cold light.”

Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.”

In a firefly’s tail, you’ll find two chemicals: luciferase and luciferin. Luciferin is heat resistant, and it glows under the right conditions. Luciferase is an enzyme that triggers light emission. ATP, a chemical within the firefly’s body, converts to energy and initiates the glow. All living things, not just fireflies, contain ATP.

  • Firefly eggs glow.

Adult fireflies aren’t the only ones that glow. In some species, the larvae and even the eggs emit light. Firefly eggs have been observed to flash in response to stimulus such as gentle tapping or vibrations.

  • Fun Fact: Light Organs

The glow from fireflies or lightning bugs comes from photic organs, or organs that produce light.

  • Fun Fact: Making Light

Fireflies combine three special substances in their photic organs to make light. The three substances are:
luciferin (a pigment),
luciferase (an enzymatic catalyst),
and ATP (nucleotide that provides energy to cells).

  • How to Catch Lightning Bugs

Tips on how best to catch lightning bugs or fireflies. | More

  • Creating Firefly Habitats

What kind of habitat do fireflies like? Why do they like standing water? | More

Credit: Firefly.org

Eye organ of a Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) third-instar larvae pictured in the confocal technique at 60 times magnification.

Credit: Dr. Michael John Bridge | University of Utah HSC Core Research Facilities – Cell Imaging Lab

7th place, Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition, 2012

http://www.nikonsmallworld.com/galleries/entry/2012-photomicrography-competition/7

Haha! It’s an eye-heart! Get it?

I <3…

Scientists view insect wings against black background, discover previously unrecognized stable iridescent patterns that are likely used in signaling

Shetsova et al. 2011. “Stable structural color patterns displayed on transparent insect wings.” PNAS vol. 108 no. 2 668-673. 2011, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1017393108 

http://www.pnas.org/content/108/2/668.full

Summary: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/01/insect-wing-color/

Entimus imperialis, the aptly-named diamond weevil! Full of stars *and* nanoscale optics!

More info here: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/12/diamond-weevil-rainbow-scales/

Original article: Wilts et al. 2012. “Hemispherical Brillouin zone imaging of a diamond-type biological photonic crystal.” J. R. Soc. Interface 7 July 2012 vol. 9 no. 72 1609-1614. doi: 10.1098/​rsif.2011.0730

 http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/9/72/1609

Photo 1: André Martins (2009): http://www.flickriver.com/photos/andregm/3405780756/

Photo 2: André Martins (2009) http://www.flickriver.com/photos/andregm/3373677468/

Photo 3: Composite of photos, posted here: http://diamenty.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/diamentowy-chrzaszcz/

Photo 4: Arrangement from Wired article; photos by Bodo Wilts

Photo 5: Bodo Wilts

Pachyrrhynchus gemmatus, a weevil with opalescent photonic crystal scales

Photo 1: Robert Corkery: Natural self-assembled photonic paintings- inspiration for a post-pointillist

Photos 2 and 3:  Seago et al. 2009. “Gold bugs and beyond: a review of iridescence and structural colour mechanisms in beetles (Coleoptera).” J. R. Soc. Interface 6 April 2009 vol. 6 no. Suppl 2 S165-S184 doi: 10.1098/​rsif.2008.0354.focus

http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/6/Suppl_2/S165.full