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Genus Photuris

Firefly IMG_5205 - Photuris Firefly - Photuris Photuris sp. - Photuris Firefly larvae - Photuris Beetle IMG_6274 - Photuris Photuris flavicollis Fall - Photuris flavicollis - male Photuris frontalis COMPLEX - Photuris frontalis - female Lightening Bug? - Photuris
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Coleoptera (Beetles)
Suborder Polyphaga (Water, Rove, Scarab, Long-horned, Leaf and Snout Beetles)
No Taxon (Series Elateriformia)
Superfamily Elateroidea (Click, Firefly and Soldier Beetles)
Family Lampyridae (Fireflies)
Subfamily Photurinae
Genus Photuris
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
for more than a century(!) most Photuris spp. in NA were lumped under the name P. pennsylvanica, but Barber's (1951) work on flashing behavior led to recognition of several new and synonomized species, and to further research on the use of flash patters in firefly taxonomy. (1)
Explanation of Names
Photuris LeConte 1851
Greek 'luminous tail'
22 described spp., 28 more in prep. in our area(1) (thus, there are more undescribed spp. in this genus than described spp.!)
10-20 mm (2)
Head often visible from above, not completely covered by pronotum as in Photinus. Legs typically long and slender, not compressed, antennae simple(3). Elytral fold, visible from side, incomplete (left) vs complete in Photinus (right)(4)

identification to sp. is very difficult as the genitalia of all Photuris males are virtually identical and both the males and females use a variety of flash patterns. (2)
keys to spp. in Barber 1951 and McDermott 1967 should not be relied upon. (1)
e NA to southern Rockies (BG data)
Females mimic flash patterns of females of other genera, esp. Photinus. Males are lured in and consumed. They do this for nutrition and, perhaps, to obtain chemical defenses from other lampyrids(5)(Eisner et al. 1997)
Life Cycle
Photuris often mate high up in trees, and as such little is known of their mating behavior (2)
Photuris adults are relatively long-lived, in captivity the can survive for a month or more (2)
Species identification is problematic. Several undescribed species exist which can be separated only by subtle differences in flash patterns. Most submitted images will remain on the genus page only because of this new finding.
See Also
Photuris fireflies fly later during the night and higher off the ground compared to Photinus spp. (2)
Print References
Barber, H.S. 1951. North American fireflies in the genus Photuris. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 117(1): 1–58. (6)
Eisner, T. 2003. For Love of Insects. Harvard University Press. (5)
Eisner et al., 1997. Firefly “femmes fatales” acquire defensive steroids (lucibufagins) from their firefly prey. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 94: 9723–9728.
Gronquist, M., F.C. Schroeder, H. Ghiradella, D. Hill, E.M. McCoy, J. Meinwald and T. Eisner. 2006. Shunning the night to elude the hunter: Diurnal fireflies and the “femmes fatales." Chemoecology 16: 39-43.
Lloyd, J.E. 1965. Aggressive mimicry in Photuris: firefly femmes fatales, Science 149(3684): 653–654.
Lloyd, J.E. 1969. Flashes of Photuris fireflies: their value and use in recognizing species. Florida Entomologist 52(1): 29-35.
Lloyd, J.E. 1980. Male Photuris fireflies mimic sexual signals of their females’ prey. Science 210(4470): 669-671.
McDermott, F.A. 1967. The North American fireflies of the genus Photuris DeJean a modification of Barber's key (Coleoptera; Lampyridae). The Coleopterist's Bulletin 21: 106–116. (7)
Works Cited
1.American Beetles, Volume II: Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea
Arnett, R.H., Jr., M. C. Thomas, P. E. Skelley and J. H. Frank. (eds.). 2002. CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, FL.
2.Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies
Sara Lewis. 2016. Princeton University Press.
3.A Manual of Common Beetles of Eastern North America
Dillon, Elizabeth S., and Dillon, Lawrence. 1961. Row, Peterson, and Company.
4.Peterson Field Guides: Beetles
Richard E. White. 1983. Houghton Mifflin Company.
5.For Love of Insects
Thomas Eisner. 2003. Belknap Press.
6.North American fireflies in the genus Photuris.
Barber, H.S. and F.A. McDermott. 1951. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, 117(1): 1–58.
7.The North American fireflies of the genus Photuris DeJean a modification of Barber's key (Coleoptera; Lampyridae).
McDermott, F.A. 1967. The Coleopterists' Bulletin 21(4): 106–116.