Thousands of bugs reside in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but not just any can be the state bug. With so many to choose from, which creepy crawly was able to earn the honor?

If you close your eyes and think of summer night, you may just be able to see a familiar glow in the air or grass. The firefly is Pennsylvania’s beloved state bug, but what is there to know about these iridescent insects? Let’s look at what they are and how they earned their title.

The firefly is Pennsylvania’s beloved state bug

Light the Way: Fun Facts about the Firefly

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are not actually flies as the name implies. They are actually a part of the beetle family. These small creatures are about ¾ inch long, and they are mostly black. You can identify these well-known insects by the two red spots on their headcover. Their headcovers and wing covers are both lined in yellow.

They have two antennae, six jointed legs, and like most insects, a hard exoskeleton. Of course, the most unique aspect of a firefly is its glow.

A firefly’s glow produces light by way of a chemical reaction using special organs. This light gives off very little heat, so as not to waste energy. Either one or both sexes can use their glow to attract mates, and their flash patterns are very specific. In fact, the signals vary from species to species. Some emit a continuous glow while others use “flash-trains” to attract mates.

Mainly a summer insect, there are over 136 different types of fireflies. Their distinctive glow can be white, yellow, orange, green-blue, or red. 

How did the Firefly earn the title?

Believe it or not, elementary students are the reason the firefly sits as our state bug. Some students from Upper Darby worked with state legislators to solidify their spot of honor. After circulating petitions, handing out bumper stickers, and with sheer determination, their efforts finally paid off.

The firefly was formally adopted as the State Bug on April 10, 1974, by Governor Milton J. Shapp. It was official, and the glowing summer bug had earned its place.

Fireflies: The Surprising Killer

While fireflies are typically thought of as gentle glowing creatures that light up the night sky, their nature is quite shocking. They are beetles, after all, and they are classified as predators. While some firefly species do feed on flower nectar, most of them are on the prowl. They make surprisingly good pest control experts themselves.

Firefly larvae feed on other invertebrates, such as snails, slugs, and worms. Having them around can keep your garden pest-free and promote mushroom production. Between their glow and hungry young, they should be welcome in your garden. The females, however, tend to eat the males; so, courtship can be dangerous. Plus, they aren’t harmful to humans. While they can be harmful to other insects and each other, they aren’t harmful to humans.

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are not actually flies

Fireflies: A Dimming Light

Though fireflies have always been a beautiful memory from childhood, the sad fact is these glowing creatures may be fading into memory. Our state bug is suffering from a steep population drop. This drop-in numbers can be traced to habitat loss and degradation, in addition to light pollution, pesticides, climate change, and over-harvesting. 

If we aren’t careful, we could very well lose these useful and beautiful insects. Hope is not lost, however. There are plenty of things you can do to help promote population growth and you can do it in your own backyard.

To encourage fireflies, the easiest thing you can do is turn off the lights. By turning off your lights at night, both inside and out, you can cut down on light pollution and encourage fireflies to seek shelter in your yard or garden.

Another easy way to promote fireflies is by providing their favorite food; you can simply do that by maintaining a garden. Whether you prefer flowers or fruit, fireflies feed on snails, slugs, and earthworms. To build up their population, you can give them a place to shelter while enjoying a beautiful garden at the same time. Just be careful of pesticides. 

With these two simple steps, you can easily do your part in restoring fireflies to their former glory. Plus, you can make some wonderful memories in the process.

Concluding Thoughts

Fireflies on a warm summer night are as strong a memory as street bazaars, ice cream trucks, and county fairs. Unfortunately, without help, our state bug may end up becoming just a memory.

Of course, helping these little glowing fellas out is pretty easy. In fact, it’s as simple as flicking a light switch. Take the time this summer to turn off the lights, sit in a quiet place, and watch the fireflies glow.  They are the state bug, after all, and they sure know how to put on a show.



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