Watching fireflies light up an African night

dsc_0252Every so often life surprises you with an experience so awesome that it simply takes your breath away. Last night I had one such experience. Standing in a dark wood beside a gently-flowing stream with a shower of brilliant stars overhead, I watched fireflies light up a balmy spring night as they danced a mating call in a waltz of dazzling beauty.

As I watched the tiny flashes of the fireflies light up the darkness of the African night, I thought how privileged I was to witness this silent star-spangled display of Nature, as fireflies are sensitive to light, and light pollution from lit-up cities and towns is diminishing their numbers in heavily-populated regions of the world.

Fireflies hibernate over winter in their larval stage and emerge in spring to begin the serious business of perpetuating the species with synchronized flashes of light. These magical flashes of bioluminescence, emitted from glands in their lower abdomen, signal the fireflies’ courtship dance, and each firefly species has a different pattern of flashes.

Without their chemically-produced light show, fireflies are unprepossessing little bugs. They really don’t look anything special in the harsh daylight hours. It is their dazzling courtship dance during the dark hours of the night that utterly transforms them into insect fairies.

Definitely a night I will remember!