Monday, June 22, 2009

Fireflies

It was dark last night. Rain continues for days on end. No sun or moon in sight. I went out with Bella around 9:30 pm for her final duties before bedtime. The backyard was alive with fireflies, flashing a greenish light from their abdomen, alerting mates to their presence. Commonly called fireflies, lightning bugs, or glowworms, they are actually beetles. They are quite efficient in producing light, this bio-luminescence caused by a chemical reaction. Most of the energy they produce in their light-making organ is given off as light. In contrast, a typical light bulb gives off only 10% of its energy as light, the rest is wasted as heat. Fireflies would roast if they produced that much heat.

As kids we gathered up fireflies in jars and ran around with our homemade "flashlights." As the fireflies sparkled under a dark sky, a tree frog called from a nearby tree. Even by day I can't find these frogs, so well camouflaged they are and they seem to throw their voice like a ventriloquist. A few days back we found one on the road after a rainy night. It had ventured into the path of a car or vise-versa. Despite its condition it was readily identifiable by the bright yellow patches on the underside of its hind legs.

I am back at Winterberry Farm for a week. Attending a symposium on urban wildlife and visiting family. More on the conference in the next few days.

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