What purpose do fireflies serve in nature?

Fireflies are beneficial bugs. Not only are they one of the great wonders of nature, making our summer evenings more exciting, but they are also predators.

The larvae of most species are specialized predators. They live on slugs, snails, earthworms and many different kinds of destructive insect pests.

Firefly larvae hunt by following the trail of an earthworm, snail or slug. After locating their prey, they inject it with an anesthetic (a drug that causes loss of feeling) in order to stop their prey from running away. Then the firefly larvae can easily capture and eat their prey.

These wonderful insects are also helping humans. Researchers have discovered that the luciferase produced by fireflies is useful for anything from detecting blood clots to tracking the efficacy of cancer medications.

In fact, scientists have learned how to make synthetic luciferase, which means that the medical industry no longer needs to harvest this bioluminescent chemical from fireflies.

Fireflies also fascinate biologists for a simple reason — their flashes illuminate not only the evening, but how signals play a role in evolution. In the first place, how could something like a glowing rear end, which offers a target for predators, ever evolve?

Well, the flashes are an example of signals to predators, also seen in brightly-colored butterflies, that something tastes bad or is toxic. And fireflies are loaded with toxins, such as lucibufagins. So don't eat them because they won't taste good.

Want more amazing firefly facts? See links below:

aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu

beneficialbugs.org

farmersalmanac.com

usatoday30.usatoday.com

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