Other Common Names
Firefly Beetles, Lightning Bugs
Explanation of Names
Lampyridae Rafinesque 1815
from lampyris 'glowworm' from Greek 'shining'
ca. 170 spp. in ~20 genera in our area(1)
, ~2200 described spp. in ~110 genera worldwide and estimated thousands undescribed(2)
Overview of our faunaFamily Lampyridae
Soft-bodied beetles; head is concealed from above by pronotum (exposed in Cantharidae); last 2-3 abdominal sternites often modified to light-emitting organs; tarsal formula 5-5-5
most northeastern spp. can be identified using(3)
larvae mostly in damp situations
Larvae prey on small animals, including snails; adults of many genera do not feed(4)
. Female Photuris
are known to lure Photinus
males using the flash pattern of female Photinus
, and eat them to obtain defensive chemicals(5)
Some species, especially the genera Photinus, Photuris, and Pyractomena, are distinguished by the unique courtship flash patterns emitted by flying males in search of females. In general, females of the Photinus genus do not fly, but do give a flash response to males of their own species.
Larvae produce light to deter predators, but some species lose this ability as adults.
larvae luminescent, emit light from the tail area
Many firefly spp. are well chemically protected, primarily by the steroid-like lucibufagins that make them distasteful to jumping spiders and birds(5)
Eisner et al. (1997) Firefly “femmes fatales” acquire defensive steroids (lucibufagins) from their firefly prey. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94: 9723–9728.
North American Lampyridae on milkweed(6)