Dance of the Fireflies

Isn't he cute and cuddly! Image courtesy of

I went to bed early last night while the rest of the family stayed up and watched a movie.  As I lay in bed with the usual ten million things swirling through my mind, I stared out the bedroom window and watched the fireflies dance around in the air. I love fireflies! They’re a sure sign of summer and bring back so many memories of childhood.

My family spends many summer nights sitting outside around our fire pit.  The fireflies swarm around like crazy this time of year.  Obviously since you can see them you get a pretty clear image of how many are out there.  I can’t help but wonder though, what other creepy critters are flying around that you can’t see.  Look near any light and you get a pretty good idea.  If all the insects that are out at night had little headlights on, we’d all probably choose to stay inside.

Lots of these unseen creatures choose to interact with you when you’re sitting outside at night.  When they do, most of us freak out and flail our arms around and squeal like little girls. If a spider crawled up your pant leg as you’re sitting there enjoying a conversation, wouldn’t you be totally distressed and have to go inside and change all of your clothes?  If you were hit with a giant moth that you weren’t expecting wouldn’t you likely tip your chair from swatting it away with such ferocity?  If a big June bug landed on the back of your neck wouldn’t you be traumatized from ever going outside again.  I thought so!  Mosquitos?  I won’t even go there…

Fireflies are gentle beasts though, you can see them coming and sometimes they land on you with their little butts lit up and you feel like somehow you’ve been chosen.  They’re not frightening, they’re not disgusting, they’re not creepy.  Instead, somehow they are charming and loveable, like butterflies and dragonflies.

I’ve had several conversations with adults recently about fireflies and the things these evil people used to do as kids, with these poor, helpless insects.  One said he and his friends used to smear them around their fingers as if wearing a ring. Another said he and his friends would use them as face paint.  One even went so far as to say that he would feed them to frogs and if you gave the frogs enough they would light up.  I’m guessing that story was embellished a little bit. I don’t remember ever using fireflies in such cruel, horrible fashion, but then again, I’ve never been great at squashing bugs of any kind and I suspect I was the same way as a child.  I do remember collecting them in containers and trying to get enough to make the container light up, but I think that was the extent of my firefly recreation.

In any case, this all made me wonder how many fireflies have been sacrificed in the history of the world by little kids using them as some kind of war paint, or how many have died sealed up in jars that some kid was using as a lantern the night before.  It’s a tragedy and I think PETA should be involved.  Then again, it doesn’t appear there is any shortage of fireflies around.  So maybe I’m overreacting.

By the way, you people who call them lightning bugs, they’re not lightning bugs, they’re fireflies.  There’s no lightening involved.  So there.  What? There’s no fire involved either? Yeah okay you’re right, there is no fire involved.  So go ahead and call them whatever you want to… just stop squashing them!


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18 responses to “Dance of the Fireflies

  1. I have never seen a firefly, yet always have wanted too 🙂

  2. bigsheepcommunications

    You’re never gonna get to sleep if you keep the shades up watching the fireflies! We have tons of them here too and I love to watch them – they’re the only bugs my normally squeamish daughter will actually touch.

  3. We learned our lesson the hard way as children. It wasn’t fireflies but frogs that taught the lesson. We captured a few at the creek across the street and set them up in a large pan with water, lats, a rock to sit on etc…as the afternoon came to a close, we couldn’t bear to part with them…and decided to keep them for just one more day… We put the pan (in a “safe” place) up high on the neighbors metal air conditioner which hung out of their window and into our back yard. Suffice it to say that, by the time we returned home from school the next day and retrieved the pan with joyous hands in anticipation of another “hoppy” afternoon, the hapless frogs were toast 😦 Lesson learned…capture, play and release–same day–no exceptions!

  4. LOL…was just fixing to tell you that we have always called them lightning bugs. I did see friends & others catching them & smearing them on their jeans when I was a kid. Now, since I moved to our new place on the lake in Mississippi…we have the fire pit going too….crazy how many more bugs fly around down there than what we always had back home in Memphis. Plus I’m sure being so close to the lake has alot to do with it to. See some pretty crazy ones down there!

    • I actually have called them lightning bugs plenty of times, but fireflies is what I usually say. I can only imagine the creatures you see down south, they probably get bigger and bigger the farther south one goes!

  5. Great post, last night while driving home from “Family Reunion Night Part 2” it was dark and we were showing the boy LIGHTNING bugs, he was calling them stars…..and the closer to home we got the less the bugs were out we were noticing, we were kinda sad because we wanted to catch some and show them to him (He’s never caught one)….so pretty cool that you put this as your post.

  6. My friend, Todd, did a post on fireflies last month:

    We always called them lightning bugs when I was growing up in Ohio. My brother and I and my cousins always caught them in jars.


  7. Pingback: lightening bug in a jar | Let me ask you this…

  8. Now you’ve got me thinking: why can’t it be the mosquitoes that light up? At least then you’d have a fighting chance when they start swarming. As far as other critters, I had a huge grasshopper go all kamikaze and jack my jaw when I was mowing last week. (Search “lawnmower” on our site, and you’ll see this is the least of my lawn troubles.)

  9. We have woods on two sides of our property where the yard lights don’t reach. On summer evenings there are so many of them it’s like diamonds sparkling on a black velvet display. Sadly, I’ve tortured my share of fireflies in my day. Girls like to make diamond rings out of them. 😉

  10. I’d never seen a firefly until I came to Japan. There is even a local Hotaru Matsuri/Firefly Festival held closeby each year. Very cool insects that look hot!

    note: (名) ホタル

  11. We call them lightning bugs around here! I think it was originally intended as “lighten-ing bugs” but got lost in translation from Old-Appalachian into modern-day English. Just a theory 🙂

    I never sacrificed them as they always seemed like a blessing to me, too. Them and crickets – all the others, I try to be cool about, but they really do freak me out! Especially this year, because we’ve had an invasion of these horrible little gnats we call “no-see-ums.” They bite you and before you know it the spot gets hard and swells up to the size of a golf ball. It burns and itches all at the same time – definitely a reason to swat like a crazy man!

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