Also known as Midsummer and Litha, the Summer Solstice is less than two weeks away. June 20th will mark the shortest and brightest night of the year. Many things signal the arrival of Summer. Chiefly, the longer days, and accompanying warmth of the burning Sun. When I was young, there were a number of things that I associated with the Summer months. Having a three month break from the mental exercises of school was a big one, but it was the doorway to so much more. Computers weren't a part of the average household then. I used to spend a great deal of time outside. Riding my bike; exploring forest trails; building tree forts with my friends.
My favorite time of the day was late afternoon, when the day was giving way to the evening. The calm slowly dimming time of twilight, when the Sun disappears beyond the horizon. The Moon would rise in it's place, and the sparkling pinpricks of the stars would pepper the blue black felt of the night sky. It was as the Moon rose to start it's shift that one of my biggest memories of Summers in the South occurred. Like a sprinkling of fairy light spinning in the air, the Lightning Bugs would come out to play.
I grew up calling them 'Lightning Bugs', but others may know them as 'Fireflies'. They were so magical. I have great memories of running barefoot across blankets of cool grass, reaching for the small slowly moving balls of light. I would grab the air born insects easily, and place them in a clean pickle jar. Air holes would always be punched in the lid, although I never kept them in the glass prison long. Just for a little while, so I could study their brilliant glow. My mother told me that when she was young, she and her friends would catch them like I had. When the bugs "tails" lit up again, they would pinch them off and make rings out of the lights. That didn't appeal to me much. I was more of a 'catch and release' Lightning Bug trapper. I am sure that I may have caused the occasional bug casualty, but it was never intentional.
I was being a bit nostalgic earlier today, thinking about my early summers here in Georgia. That got me thinking about Lightning Bugs, which then got me to wondering. Are Lightning Bugs and Fireflies the same thing? The answer is "yes". There are a number of species, over 150 in the US. They go by a number of names. As already mentioned, they are called Lightning Bugs, and Fireflies. They also have the name Moon Bug (I like that one), and Golden Sparkler. In Japanese, they are 'Hotaru'. The French call them 'Luciole', and Jamaicans call them 'Blinkies'.
|(This is the type I'm accustomed|
How are they able to light themselves up? They produce a substance in their abdomen called Luciferin. The bioluminescence is a reaction of its oxidation. First, the enzyme Luciferase acts as the trigger; second, Oxygen acts as fuel; third, a common compound found in both plant and animal cells, ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) converts it to energy causing the mixture to light up. The light produced doesn't give off any heat.
|("Glo Worm" doll,|
c. 1986, HASBRO)