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Bugs that Light Up the Sky

The 4th of July wouldn’t be the same without bright, colorful fireworks. Though we love traditional fireworks, they aren’t the only things lighting the sky at night. Some bugs are able to produce their own light. Check out which bugs will be putting on their own light show for the holiday.




Whether you call them fireflies or lightning bugs, these insects remind people of summer nights during their childhood. Fireflies are a type of beetle that can produce their own light. When oxygen, luciferin, and luciferase are combined it results in a green, orange, or yellow light. Fireflies use their light as a form of communication. They will flash for mating purposes or to warn predators to stay away from them. They have a flat, brown body with either yellow or orange markings. They can grow up to 1 inch in length. Though most of these bugs fly and produce light, that’s not the case for all fireflies. 

Glow in the Dark Millipedes

Millipedes like to join in on the fun too. Some species of millipedes belonging to the motyxia genus glow in the dark. These millipedes have a photoprotein that activates when combined with compounds rich in calcium. This results in a greenish glow that varies in brightness between species. These millipedes are blind and their light acts as a warning to predators. When threatened, they can release cyanide. Unlike other millipedes, the glowing species spend their days buried in the soil and come out at night to feed on dead plants. These millipedes can be found in California in mountainous regions.

New Zealand Glowworm

New Zealand Glowworm

Though glowworm is often used to describe fireflies, this glowworm is its own species. The New Zealand glowworm—arachnocampa lumiosa—is a species of fungus gnats. They can be found in areas of New Zealand that are dark and damp. Caves are usually the preferred home of these bugs. While adult glowworms will glow, the real light show is found in their larval stage. Newly hatched larvae are about 3-5mm. Over time they grow to be between 30-40mm. In this stage, they produce a bright blue light. They produce silk lines and will hang from the ceiling of caves in order to attract prey. When many glowworms hang together it creates a bright curtain of blue light.

Glowing Cockroach

Cockroaches don’t usually come to mind when you think of beautiful light shows, but the glowing cockroach disagrees. A type of cockroach—lucihormetica luckae—produces a yellowish-green glow. These cockroaches are about 1 inch in length and can be found in Ecuador near an active volcano. This glowing cockroach happens to emit light in the same places as the glowing click beetle. It’s possible that the cockroach has evolved to produce similar light to the click beetle in order to protect itself from predators. Since the click beetle can be toxic, predators would believe the glowing cockroach is harmful. When emitting light, these cockroaches appear to be glowing all over. 

Glowing Click Beetles

Glowing Click Beetle

If you’re wanting some sound effects to accompany the light show, click beetles have you covered. These beetles get their name from the clicking noise they produce when they shoot themselves into the air. They use this as a defense mechanism as well as to turn right side up after being upside down. Certain species of click beetles belonging to the pyrophorus genus produce light. These beetles are known as glowing click beetles. Instead of producing flashing lights, they constantly glow. The light ranges in color from green to orange and is emitted from two spots on a click beetle’s head as well as one spot below their abdomen.

As much as people enjoy celebrating the 4th of July with a few fireworks, it shouldn’t surprise us that bugs would want to join in on the fun. Though their reasons vary, these bugs produce a bright glow that can light up the sky. If you’re looking for a new holiday tradition, you may want to attend a light show by one of these bugs. Have you spotted any of these glowing insects? Let us know in the comments below!

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