Other Common Names
Glow-worms, Railroad Worms
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
the Asian Rhagophthalmidae (~30 spp.) formerly included here as subfamily are now treated as a separate familyl(1)
23 spp. in 6 genera of 2 tribes north of Mexico, ~250 spp. in ~30 genera total(2)
Adult males have variously shortened/narrowed soft elytra, branched antennae, and bulging eyes; adult females are larviform (often all but impossible to tell from fully-grown larvae) and, like the larvae, have bioluminescent organs(2)
Adult females larviform, differing only slightly in external appearance from mature larvae in absence of larval setae from sterna and terga of abdominal segments 9 and 10, presence of gonopore beneath large, transverse fold on abdominal segment 10, and presence of compound eyes (2)
Also, per J.M. Cicero: "Adult females are much larger, having supernumerated beyond the male instar count and/or grown larger on nutritional bases; we don't know which of these factors is responsible for the larger size. Zarhipis and Phengodes larvae, at least, have strong opaque dorsal sclerites while in the female, those markings are bleached and weak. Lastly, females have a semi-circular slit on the penultimate ventrite that is associated with a copulatory gonopore. Larvae don't have either."
New World; in our area, mostly so. US, with 1 sp. (Phengodes plumosa
) reaching ON and all Mastinocerini restricted to sw. US (CA-TX)(2)(3)
adult females and larvae feed on millipedes(2)
; adult males do not feed
mostly nocturnal; males come to lights(4)
According to Branham (2004), females appear to be much more commonly encountered than larvae.
Branham, M. 2004. Glow-Worms, Railroad-Worms (Insecta: Coleoptera: Phengodidae). Entomology and Nematology Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. (Featured Creatures: University of Florida