Fireflies talk in their own languages


Advice from a firefly: Look on the bright side!

Fireflies are insects that glow at night. They light their bellies with chemicals in their bodies and in the air.

Each firefly species flashes with its own sequence to send a message. 

When you spot a tiny beetle glowing yellow, green, or orange — that’s a firefly! If you’re super lucky, you might see a rare species that glows blue. 

Who knows, maybe you’ll even crack the secret to their language. 


What did that firefly say?

When the stars come out on a summer night, watch the fireflies talk! You might spy them flashing in unison, or as waves that swell through forests and fields. 

Some fireflies even talk in Morse-code, just like people. Their sequences look like fast blinks and long flashes. 

The US Navy & Coast Guard send messages to ships with Morse-code lights when their radios are down.

Why do fireflies glow?

Scientists say fireflies light up for 2 reasons:

1) They’re looking for a partner

The male flies around while the female perches on low plants. His flashes share details about him. If she’s interested, she blinks back. The brighter she glows, the more she likes him. 

Some fireflies species don’t glow. Instead, they send messages by releasing smells (we call those smells pheromones).

2) They’re warning predators

Many animals have learned the hard way to avoid insects that glow. When they see a firefly’s light, they get the message “don’t eat me, I taste bad.”

In summer, females lay about 100 eggs under fallen leaves or near water. The eggs and larvae glow too! Glowing keeps them safe from animals like birds and spiders. 

Here’s a little secret to spot even more fireflies…

Go out at dusk or night and explore forests, fields, or marshes. Fireflies like areas with long grass near water. 

When you get there, turn off all lights — they bother fireflies. That means no cellphones, car lights, or flashlights.

Don’t put fireflies in a jar!

They can only multiply when they fly free. And they’re more beautiful to watch that way. 

Relish their magical light show — you can save your wonderful memories with fireflies as notes in a jar.

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