Ask Pippa

How do Fireflies Light up?

Look! It's a shooting star! No, actually it's a flying beetle.

Fireflies are named for the bright flashes of light they give off. Usually, they flash like this when they are looking for a mate. Gives a whole new meaning to being flashy.

Sometimes, a sudden flash is used to scare off hungry predators. (Hey, who wouldn't run from something that looked like a giant flashing camera-flash?)

Fireflies can do their flashy thing because of special cells located near their rear-end. These cells contain two chemicals that are there for this reason.

The chemicals are triggered by oxygen to work together to give off the light.

The light made by these insects is different than light from a light bulb or candle. A firefly's light doesn't need a source that gives off much heat. This cold light is called luminescence (loom-in-ESS-sents).

Fireflies aren't the only living things out there that can light up on their own. Glowworms, lantern fish, some plants and certain types of bacteria are other glowing examples.

Most creatures that can make their own light live in the world's deep, dark oceans. Some glow or flash to scare off predators. Others, like the deep-sea angler-fish, have a small bit of light near its mouth that attracts smaller creatures -- for its dinner. Glow! Gulp!


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