Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Firefly and Cicada

Our days this month may become exceptionally hot but we are allowed compensation by our nights, which are something marvelous to behold. The melodic song of the Cicada, which drones throughout the summer months tells us when the temperature will be ninety. As dusk ushers in the cool of evening, their singing is silenced until morning. Suddenly, in the darkness, the fireflies appear with the evening light show.

The firefly is a type of flying beetle that glows in the dark with tiny sparks of white fire. They appear in midsummer and only warm climates. Their abdomens contain five chemicals adenosine, triphosphate, luciferin, oxygen, magnesium, and luciferase which are bound by a chemical controller. As nerve stimulations release another chemical, inorganic pyrophosphate, the bond breaks and the reaction creates the light. Seconds later the light diminishes as another chemical destroys the pyrophosphate. Fireflies are one of the few insects that use vision to find a mate. Male fireflies find true love by following the flashing lights.

Although they exist all over the world, many fireflies do not have wings. In Europe the female is called the glowworm because she simply sits in irrisident splendor. In Cuba, the beetle is rather large and has been used for centuries as a decoration. Women attach the beetle to their gowns or place one on a special golden chain as an ornament. In dense tropical forests it is customary to attach the glowing beetles to the tops of boots to light the path. In other places, the beetles are placed en mass in jars and give a continuous, though wavering light.

As we seriously battle grasshoppers, shield bugs, assassin bugs, and a host of other voracious insects, it is nice to remember our childhood when looking for cicada shells and catching fireflies added memorable and magical allure to our summer evenings.