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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fires of Inspiration (Part One) – Fire Flies

Courtesy of Keara BugSlayer
Having learned in the Writing For The Web MOOC that I should be limiting each page to one topic for ease
of scanning and shallow reading which is what most internet surfers want, I'll break my themes in to parts to do an arc or series.[I seem to think best when I think in terms of connections.] Part one of the Fires of Inspiration theme will be on Fire Flies, inspired by one of my favorite summer experiences: watching fire flies.

It is an inconsistent past time. Some summer evenings are awash in the dance of the fairy flies and other nights there are just the stray brave few that venture forth for the lonely wanders to delight in. They are best spotted in large dark fields shortly after it is fully dark.

Fire flies photography seems a difficult subject matter. I had a few volunteer fire flies land on me just this morning when the only camera I had available was my laptop camera and it was too bright to see whether I had captured any shots of them. I hadn't.

Fire flies are also called lightning bugs and glow worms. The reason they glow is to to attract a mate and as a type of protective coloration warning predators that they contain toxic chemicals. They have special organs that have two chemicals in them called luciferase (an enzyme) and luciferin. When these chemicals mix they glow with a cold light, like a glow stick.

Not all of the many species of fire flies have the ability to glow. The ones that are mostly active during the day do not. Some species have females that don't glow but males that do. But all have a glowing larval stage.

Courtesy of Keara BugSlayer
One of the coolest things among certain species of fire flies is the tendency to phase synchronized glowing, where whole trees or fields full of fire flies will turn on and off in unison. The species that do this most often are found in South East Asia, especially in Malaysia, according to Wikipedia article on Fire Flies. There are also a few species that do this in state of Virginia, in the USA.

NPR had a nice story on this. NPR article on fire flies.

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