Thursday, June 27, 2013

Little Fairies of the Night

 
 
 


If you were lucky enough as a child to live where the fireflies dwelt, surely you remember chasing after them, hands cupped in eager pursuit. When I was a child, we called them lightening bugs. As night fell, they were everywhere, ascending from the dewy grass in waves and spirals. If you were quick and clever, the firefly was that one magical thing you could hold in your own small hand.

 
You had to have a firefly jar, its lid pierced with air holes, to keep them in temporary  captivity. We would include a few blades of grass and a twig or two to make them feel at home while we watched up close as their mysterious lights flashed on and off. I can remember keeping my firefly jar in a darkened bedroom, watching it glow until my eyes grew heavy with sleep.

 
I hope to never outgrow my delight in these little lantern-bearers of the insect world – I wish every child the chance to hunt them on a mild summer’s eve. Unfortunately, firefly populations are on the decline around the country and around the world.


They are disappearing from our marshes and fields, our yards and woodlands. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but development that paves over these formerly open spaces and light pollution that interferes with their flashing lights, a form of insect communication, are thought to be two causes.


It would be a shame if they faded away, since lightening bugs are not only a child’s delight, but fascinating little creatures in their own right. Science has an abiding interest in these endearing little insects, Researchers use the firefly’s luminescence to track energy exchanges in human cells, a key tactic in the study of heart disease, cancer and muscular dystrophy. The highly efficient ‘cool” light these insects emit hasn’t been duplicated in any commercially available light source – even the energy -saving fluorescent bulbs and LED lights come in a poor second. Chemicals known as luciferase and luciferin (why the devilish names?) are responsible for the firefly’s glow. Why do fireflies glow? It is the females that flash to alert the males that they are ready to mate.


Early or late, my heart still lurches upward when I first see the little fairies of the night rising skyward. Do you have fireflies in your area, and are you taken back to your childhood when you see them?
 
Debbie

6 comments:

Michele @ The Nest at Finch Rest said...

I was just thinking about this last night when I was watering the garden. I accidentally kinda hosed one down - there's only a few scattered about - nothing like when I was little. But I lived with a park on one side, woods on another side and Lake Erie on another - so it was open, wide and untouched.

I think it is the pesticides and chemicals on lawns and in the air killing them in the cities - I have 70 trees here, but hardly any lightening bugs. (That's what we called them and still do!)

I love your post.

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

We spent our last tour of duty in the Marine Corp at NAS Jacksonville, in Florida and my children had the delightful experience of fireflies. They are now becoming grandparents and still remember the wonder of those delightful little insects that lit up the nights..

Leann said...

LOVED this post! Mr OP and I were just talked about them the other night. We did the same as you with the jars and grass. Our boys remember catching them too. Sure hope that our someday grands have the same opportunity.

Thanks for the memories!

xo

Musings from Kim K. said...

Such sweet memories. Thankfully, our back woods are still filled with fireflies. So are the mosquitoes. A blessing and a curse right now. HUGS!

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

The first time I ever saw fireflies I was just enchanted. I didn't know they are disappearing! Since they aren't in our region I have never captured one. Lovely post!

Debbiedoos said...

Oh what fond memories this brings. I just love it. My sons band this year the theme is fire flies. We live in the Carolinas and it is so fitting and all about being a child and the memories of chasing them.