Now, keep in mind even before we’ve started that I am not in any way advocating animal cruelty. Nor do I condone this practice even slightly, which is why I’m asking this question in October, so people won’t be tempted to grab a lightning bug and try it themselves. But some of you surely must have done this as sprogs: smashing lightning bugs onto people so that the people will briefly have glowing bug corpses on them. My brother often did this to me when we were small, but I’ve quite forgotten a number of salient details, and so I ask solely out of intellectual curiosity:
Approximately how long does the glow last? Does it differ substantially if the bugs are smashed onto cloth as opposed to the skin?
Must the insect be lit up at the time of death/smashing for the glow to occur? I’m thinking not, but I can’t remember at all.
And no, no, no, do not do this to any real live lightning bugs. I’m simply asking you to recall your childhood misdeeds. “Every lightning bug is precious/every lightning bug is great,” etc. and all that jazz.
Having gotten that out of the way, I have noticed that when a lightning bug plays kamikaze on the windshield, the glow lasts around 3 - 5 seconds (estimating by memory).
I cannot think of any reason why the duration of the glow would change, based on the material into which the insect was smashed.
Deliberately killing one of the neatest bugs in creation? YOU FIENDS!
[/google ad hijack]Bed bug control products?[/gah]
I seem to remember the glow lasting several minutes. They did not have to be lit in order to glow when shmooshed, but IIRC the prevailing thought was the glow would last longer if they were lit at the moment of, um, the moment when they passed, shall we say.
I now live where there are no lightning bugs. My children have never seen them. (Or collected them in a mayonnaise jar to light their room, or–that other thing.)
This past summer I was in bed, asleep, when I felt something crawling on me. Instinctively, I swatted at myself. It was the middle of the night, and the room was very dark, so I did I little freak out dance when I looked down and the only thing I could see was glowing alien goo spreading up and down my arm.
Then I realized what happened and I was sad. Poor little bug. I think he lit up when I smashed him, but I can’t be sure.
I remember, as a kid, smashing two or three of them around the perimiter of my wrist to make a glowing “bracelet”. So I think the glowing lasted at least a couple of minutes, long enough to catch another firefly and finish the bracelet.
I also remember waiting for them to light up to smash them, but I’m not sure if you had to do that, or if it just made them glow longer.
Once my brother and I ran around smacking lightning bugs out of the air with a wiffle bat. They would make a little glowing arc as their smushed up corpses flew through the air. We were young and cruel.
I always liked them though, and catching lightning bugs then letting them go was a favorite summer pastime. Sometimes one would get into my room and at night it would be nice to just lay there and watch it glow. Another thing I remember is that, to me at least, lightning bugs always had a very distinctive odor. Not bad, just instantly recognizeable.
We don’t have them here in Seattle and I miss 'em.
I love lightning bugs. And I love, having gone to various schools in Pennsylvania and New York, when the Californians get out here and freak out at the flashes of light.
That said, though, don’t let them fool you with their pretty ways. Some of them are ice-cold seductionists and killers, the femme fatale fireflies, imitating the glow sequences of other species and then killing and eating the hapless males they lure to their deaths. And those glowing chemicals? Luciferin and luciferase. Probably named after the DARK LORD OF FIREFLIES, I imagine. They sure are fascinating little critters
sinjin - There’s a scientist that comes to Middle Tennessee every year to buy fireflies. I’ve seen him on the TV news. He goes to rural areas and sets up a table and the residents come with the dead bugs in ziplock bags. He weighs the bags and pays per ounce.