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Allen

Lighting bug update

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I was able to net a few of the lighting bugs in my woods tonight. I caught two distinctly different species. One is almost twice the size of the other. The larger verity is photinus pyralis, or the common eastern lighting bug. Same one that is probably in your yard. They rise when they flash. 


The smaller verity I haven’t been able to identify yet. My eyes are not good enough to make out some of the identifying details. Tomorrow I will pull out my camera and take some macro images of it to blow up the details. This is the species that is showing intermittent synchronization. It may be the same as my regular synchronous species (photuris frontalis) but the flash rate is much slower. They are also spread farther apart.  I don’t think lighting bugs change their display pattern that radically. If I can’t identify it, and I’m hoping I can’t, I’m sending my samples off to my entomologist friend to see if he can nail it down. 

While looking through various verities of lighting bugs on the net tonight (there are more than 200 species of lighting bugs in the US)  I stumbled across a description of a third species I have out here, Pyractomena borealis. They emerge early in April, a month or more before other species, and display in the tree tops instead of at ground level. That’s three, possibly four different species I’ve been able to collect out here. 

I need to make a pinboard display of them. 

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If you're so great at taking photos, maybe you should share a photo of a bunch of them glowing.  (Fingers crossed he takes the bait and shares some nifty photos... :popcorn:)

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6 hours ago, smudge said:

If you're so great at taking photos, maybe you should share a photo of a bunch of them glowing.  (Fingers crossed he takes the bait and shares some nifty photos... :popcorn:)

I can’t. They are notoriously difficult to photograph. I can take a long exposure of them on a still image, but that does not show the synchronicity of their display. To show that I need to video them, and for that one needs specialty low light equipment. An iPhone doesn’t register them at all, and my dslr barely picks them up. What you see is a black screen and what looks like hot pixels here and there. 
 

I’m actually a little bit charmed by the fact that they are so elusive. I don’t advertise that they are here, I don’t want tourists or trespassers. 

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I have heard that video or still images can steal ones soul.

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Here are the close ups. 
I can’t put a name to it yet. 

65BE3916-4C40-41C4-9B2B-20D50E2AF54B.jpeg

84990DD0-89BE-4F67-B3B1-1EB8A58703C6.jpeg

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I am truly fascinated by the lightening bug stories and your knowledge of them. 

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22 minutes ago, Airehead said:

I am truly fascinated by the lightening bug stories and your knowledge of them. 

Thank you ma’am. 
I’ve gotten as far as kinda understanding the mechanism of their bioluminescence. But the chemistry of how it works is beyond me. I did learn that it is 100% efficient. The chemical reaction the produces the light does not produce excess heat. If it did it would kill the lighting bug, having a big oil’ hot lightbulb for a posterior. 

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1 hour ago, Airehead said:

I am truly fascinated by the lightening bug stories and your knowledge of them. 

I still have the same collecting jar that I used when I was a kid. We kept it in the highest cabinet in the kitchen. When I discovered the synchronous lighting bugs a few years ago I naturally looked in the kitchen to find an empty jar, low and behold it was still there. It’s got to be right about 47 years old, it may oldest personal possession (this jar or my Snoopy mug I still use as my toothbrush holder). Many a bug, lizard, snake, you name it, fish tadpole, who knows what has been in this jar. 

The little dinks in the lid are from when I tried to poke air holes in It but couldn’t make it through. The big ones My dad made for me. I remember that day. 
He cut a piece of screen wire into a circle and stuffed it in the lid to keep bugs from getting out of the air holes; that’s still in place too.

 

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Light production in fireflies is due to a type of chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This process occurs in specialized light-emitting organs, usually on a firefly's lower abdomen. The enzyme luciferase acts on the luciferin, in the presence of magnesium ions, ATP, and oxygen to produce light.

I know you already have this information, and this is the reason I could use a firefly tail slurry with other chemicals to bioassay ATP in seeds. We measured the illumination in a scintillation chamber. Abstract of our study

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10 minutes ago, sheep_herder said:

Light production in fireflies is due to a type of chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This process occurs in specialized light-emitting organs, usually on a firefly's lower abdomen. The enzyme luciferase acts on the luciferin, in the presence of magnesium ions, ATP, and oxygen to produce light.

I know you already have this information, and this is the reason I could use a firefly tail slurry with other chemicals to bioassay ATP in seeds. We measured the illumination in a scintillation chamber. Abstract of our study

Lighting bugs control the amount of oxygen to regulate the reaction. 

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21 hours ago, smudge said:

If you're so great at taking photos, maybe you should share a photo of a bunch of them glowing.  (Fingers crossed he takes the bait and shares some nifty photos... :popcorn:)

This was uploaded three weeks ago. This is photouris frontalis, the same asynchronous species as mine.  I don’t know what kind of camera he used but I asked. 
They appear at about 8:45. They start kinda slow, and build up to frantic crescendo. At 10:00 they are done. They trail off and stop in just a few minutes. 
This is what it is like at Springwood. 

 

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4 hours ago, Allen said:

https://fireflyersinternational.net
 

Why have I not found this before?  The ultimate resource on lighting bugs.

Did you figure out the mystery firefly?

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6 hours ago, smudge said:

Did you figure out the mystery firefly?

Still working on it. 

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On 7/7/2020 at 5:18 PM, Allen said:

I can’t put a name to it yet. 

Dave and Giselle.  Duh!

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Cool vid.  I was gonna suggest either time lapse or a long exposure, but man, this video sure did a nice job.

image.thumb.png.6f8b7cc1a8fc9b59c1ba41bedc9e746e.png

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34 minutes ago, Razors Edge said:

Cool vid.  I was gonna suggest either time lapse or a long exposure, but man, this video sure did a nice job.

image.thumb.png.6f8b7cc1a8fc9b59c1ba41bedc9e746e.png

I took a few long exposures when I first discovered them. That won’t show their synchronization though. 
My population is nowhere near as dense as the Congaree population. The difference of 100 acres vs 30,000 acres of prime habitat. Here you can see patches where there will be a hundred plus in your field of view. 
 

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Just penned a letter to Lynn Faust. She is the one who discovered the population of synchronous lighting bugs in Elkmont, Tennessee. This is the article where I discovered her name: https://www.themountaineer.com/life/lynn-faust-introduces-synchronous-fireflies/article_584d5f50-79f4-11ea-be44-0b28fbfebc4a.html

Also found out she literally wrote the book on lighting bug IDs. So I bought that too.

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Dr. Faust hit me back almost immediately. That was cool of her. She asked that I send her a few samples for her to dissect so they can be definitively identified. I will net a few for her tonight. 
 

Her first guess is they are photinus hotinus australis. Cool name. Common name, Bush Babies. 

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1 minute ago, Allen said:

photinus hotinus australis

That's a long flight for such little wings!

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41 minutes ago, Razors Edge said:

That's a long flight for such little wings!

Ain’t it though. 
Photinus means light. Australis means southern. And I think hotinus means they are badassed. 

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19 minutes ago, Allen said:

Ain’t it though. 
Photinus means light. Australis means southern. And I think hotinus means they are badassed. 

smudgeinus hotinus.   

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32 minutes ago, Allen said:

Ain’t it though. 
Photinus means light. Australis means southern. And I think hotinus means they are badassed. 

Heck, from the posts here lately, is sure is hotinUS right now!

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I gotta say I love enthusiastic scientists. 


This nice lady has emailed me several times today. It is important to her that I am able to identify this species of lighting bug. It shows.
She wants samples to dissect because because I think it is important to her that she knows what they are too. She has given me instructions on how to properly net a sample. She wants me to time the duration between their flashes. Pay attention to the temperature. Time of the display, is it dusk or full dark, that makes a difference. More.
I’m honored she took the time out of her day to respond to an email from out of nowhere. Kinda flabbergasted that she is enthusiastic about it. 
 

https://books.google.com/books?id=1HELDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA112&lpg=PA112&dq=bush+baby+fireflies&source=bl&ots=EpTRy6I_MS&sig=ACfU3U0JESjiIr_HYKmHFkpibgi48ruc-Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjwr7re8cDqAhWBZd8KHXqACjIQ6AEwDHoECAwQAQ#v=onepage&q=bush baby fireflies&f=false

That’s the google doc link to the page in her book about the species she suspects this to be. Of course I immediately bought this book.

 

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Latest email: 

“And while you are at it if you can get closer and clear shot of the bottom half of the abdomen with the segment above and they two lanterns and the end. But in the end it would be easier just to dissect them. Plus I need you to provide me really good flash data with the temperature at the time you are counting. For example something like call Mom a very quick bright flash every 3 seconds in the woods or open or whatever habitat at 8:05 p.m. eastern time at 79 degrees. Flying how many inches or feet off the ground moving about two feet between each Flash. Also is the flash a single bright flash or is there movement involved like a lateral movement or a dip vertically or a wiggle“

Like I said, it’s important to her.

 

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Your gonna be damn near a bugoligist when this is settled

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3 minutes ago, Further said:

Your gonna be damn near a bugoligist when this is settled

Enthusiastic teachers are rare. Gotta appreciate it when you run across one. 


“From your description I would guess you have between 8-15+ species on your place at some point during the year.”
 

I’ve only found four.  I have work to do.

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When I was a kid in the 50's and 60's, by the fourth of July the backyards in my neighborhood were flooded with 5 - 10 in each 100' x 60' yard.

Today you don't see any and the limited woods in our area are virtually the same as then and the same 1/2 mile x 1/4 mile park begins 200' from our neighborhood, so I don't know what's knocked them out except pesticides.  The 17 cicadas are also much less numerous when their year comes now, though undeveloped land has become much less along the roads where their chirping used to drown out a load car radio.

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39 minutes ago, MickinMD said:

When I was a kid in the 50's and 60's, by the fourth of July the backyards in my neighborhood were flooded with 5 - 10 in each 100' x 60' yard.

Today you don't see any and the limited woods in our area are virtually the same as then and the same 1/2 mile x 1/4 mile park begins 200' from our neighborhood, so I don't know what's knocked them out except pesticides.  The 17 cicadas are also much less numerous when their year comes now, though undeveloped land has become much less along the roads where their chirping used to drown out a load car radio.

They live in the ground for a year or two. Pesticides have done a number on them. I can’t  imagine Round-Up has done them any favors either. 

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That's a lot of detail she's looking for. I get that she's a scientist trying to figure out the species of firefly, but holy cow! I had no idea there was that much to compare fireflies.

Good luck collecting the data. And have fun! (cuz I know you will)

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1 hour ago, The_Karen_Cooper_Incident said:

Ylva thinks they are snacks.  

Mudkipz

That gives her teeth that pretty glow.

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17 hours ago, Allen said:

Like I said, it’s important to her.

It could be important to all of us. If she's tracking species movement, population sizes, and breeding in relation to temperatures it's another data point for climate change impacts. Even if it's not related to climate change, understanding insect populations helps us make sense out of ecosystems and patterns of behavior that often can be generalized to other populations.

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15 hours ago, The_Karen_Cooper_Incident said:

Ylva thinks they are snacks.  

Mudkipz

As does Rudy.  He snaps at those little suckers in the dark even when they aren't flashing.  He either has great night vision or he's nuts.

 

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Taxonomic types 'always' get excited about new populations and sightings, whether it be insects, plants, etc. Yes, there are a few scientists that have 'egos' that won't allow them to associate and interact with the common person. However, there are many out there that are willing to share knowledge and really enjoy the interactions. Nice you found an example of the latter.

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27 minutes ago, sheep_herder said:

Taxonomic types 'always' get excited about new populations and sightings, whether it be insects, plants, etc. Yes, there are a few scientists that have 'egos' that won't allow them to associate and interact with the common person. However, there are many out there that are willing to share knowledge and really enjoy the interactions. Nice you found an example of the latter.

Her current lighting bug of interest is called, The Loopy 5. It’s found in only two locations. One is Pickens County South Carolina and one is Jefferson County Tennessee. It has this crazy flight line doing flips as it displays. They also display over water so their lights will be reflected. Both habits are old spring fed ponds with cattails and Lilly pads. 
Since Springwood is relatively lighting bug rich she wanted to check out my pond on Google Earth to see if it fit. 
 


 

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3 minutes ago, Razors Edge said:

FTR , she seems to be spoken for :(

LynnFaustphotosJPEG-3.thumb.jpg.425367583e3ab054e9f08df298e756c4.jpg

I just like that she likes lighting bugs. 
Like running into someone who actually knows how to cast a fly rod. Makes the day on the river so much better. 

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Learned something cool tonight. 
Lighting bugs will display during a total eclipse. 

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On 7/10/2020 at 4:42 PM, The_Karen_Cooper_Incident said:

He's probably this.

Mudkipz

Why not both?

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Science, shcmience. Explain all you want, the damned things are magic.

There have been a few nights during the last few weeks where I've woken up at 2AM or so and been unable to get back to sleep, so I've poured myself a drink and sat and watched the show in the backyard. 

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On 7/7/2020 at 1:03 AM, Allen said:

I was able to net a few of the lighting bugs in my woods tonight.

Not to shatter your bubble, but I can catch lightning bugs with my hand pretty darn easily :whistle:  Been able to since I was a wee little kid, so the net seems overkill. :D

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I also realized that lightning bugs, with ladybugs and rolly pollys, are some of the most approachable insects we have in the US. 

I LOVE lightning bugs.  What a great and easy introduction for kids to nature.

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