Any entomologists out there?

Where do lightning bugs go during the day? I live in the country, and one of my (many) hobbies is gardening, so I’m familiar with the great outdoors. We have a multitude of lightning bugs, but they seem to materialize at dusk. I can easily identify them (didn’t everybody catch them and jar them when we were kids?) so I know what I’m looking for. I never see them in the daytime. They aren’t crawling around on my plants or in the grass. They aren’t buzzing my head. They aren’t in the spiderwebs or the light fixtures. Are they underground? Another planet? Another dimension? Am I just making this up?

C’mon insect folks, help me out here.

President of the Vernon Dent fan club.

They hide under and around things. Leaves, mostly. In the grass. Shrubbery, that sort of thing. Look harder, they’re there.

Listen to nickrz-------!!!

Yup. Nick has the gist of it, though he neglects “under bark and logs”. Since fireflies feed on snails and slugs, they can be found in places where you find their prey.

Fireflies eat snails and slugs? Really?
And while we’re on it, we call them lightning bugs. What are they called where you are, everybody? Just curious.

We don’t have any here in the Texas panhandle. :frowning: I miss them terribly; summer just isn’t the same.

BTW, we called them “lightning bugs” OR “fireflies”, interchangeably. This was in northern Illinois.

And while you’re at it, Doug, could you tell us why they have that funny stench when you tear their little twitchy abdomens off?

All right! A thread I can offer some serious scientific data on :slight_smile:
I found a firefly in my house one night when I woke up for no reason around 3 am and started pattering around the house. Saw it flashing its little butt off on the family record collection and, dying of the same curiosity that drove Frank to post, I caught it in the bug catcher we had, set it by my window, and went back to sleep.
Next morning I got up and took a look to see what the heck a firefly looked like. I was quite surprised to see it was a bug I’d seen fairly frequently during the day - kind of greenish black with orange flanges on its head.
Of course you could always get a bug book and look it up but this was the much more fun way. Maybe most of 'em do hide out during the day but I’ve seem them out and about when the sun’s up.

Cave Diem! Carpe Canem!

Thanks for the help everybody. It’s certainly news to me that they eat snails and slugs. That must be why I haven’t stepped on any slugs this year, because, god knows we have enough lightning bugs.

My sympathy on not having any where you are, Holly. Here in KY, we’ve got lots. I have a field of about 2 acres to the side of my house, and at dusk it’s covered in lightning bugs – thousands. It is, quite simply, beautiful.

I’ve never noticed the stench when you separate the bug from its vitals. I’ll have to go crush and smell one, I suppose.

President of the Vernon Dent fan club.

Speaking as a professional computer entomologist, lightning bugs cannot be prevented with an ordinary surge protector.


I live in California and, believe it or not, it is difficult out here to find anyone that has ever seen one. (I think they believe they are an urban legend) We travelled everywhere in my youth (military brat) and some of my fondest memories include catching lightening bugs in Louisiana and Texas. This is such a happy memory that I feel sorry my own children (now grown) never experienced it.
I decided to look up lightening bugs a couple of years ago. I remember something about them being related to some bug we have here, that they ate some other kind of insect, and then I just closed the book. There was nothing there about their magic…and that was all that really mattered to me.


The smell is a chemical defense, and lots of beetles have such a thing. You don’t have to tear one apart to induce it - just handle them roughly, and they secrete this milky ooze quite readily. This stuff is the reason why so many other insects are mimics of fireflies; predators learn that fireflies taste awful, and will avoid anything that looks like one.

Lightnin, bugs without the g.
Holly i grew up in Amarillo, there were a few lightnin bugs but they were rare and an event when one was spotted.It seems that when I go back on a visit there are a few more.I think it has something to do with the neighborhoods ‘maturing’, more vegetation etc. Here in Dallas it seems there are a lot more of them over ‘ground covers’ such as jasmine than over grass.Moister under the cover? As you know the panhandle aint zactly known for humidity.
BTW there are many species and each has it’s own color and frequency of flash. Most of them the female doesn’t fly the male flies over flashing looking for an answer.The females are known as glowworms, as are the larva. There is one nefarious species that mimics others, luring a male down. NOT for kinky inter species sex but for dinner.

Ohyeh,like Olentz , I once found one boppin around in the house. I was real surprized to find he was also one of my other favorite bugs, a ‘click beetle’! Elanders is the kind a beetle they are, I think.

Holly & Mr. John

My Texas sightings were in Fort Worth and, I believe, Lubbock. (I know, I know…but my grandparents had a farm in Lubbuck and I loved staying there.)


mrjohn wrote:
“Ohyeh,like Olentz , I once found one boppin around in the house. I was real surprized to find he was also one of my other favorite bugs, a ‘click beetle’! Elanders is the kind a beetle they are, I think.”

if you’re in Texas, what you found is probably not a lightning bug/firefly, but a Pyrophorus click beetle, which have two glowing spots on the prothorax. Not very closely related to fireflies. And the name you were after is “elaters”.