Chasing Fireflies - Bioluminescence

The crickets were chirping. Soon, the cicadas added their voices to the chorus. And, if you listened closely, you could hear an occasional bull frog fill out nature’s rhapsody with an enthusiastic deep throated croak. The sky was beginning to surrender its color, and the brightest of the stars began to appear.  

However, the most spectacular display had yet to begin. 


There it was! Out in the darkest portion of the backyard. If you wait for a moment you would see it again...there...and there!  

"Come on, dad," I shouted. "The lightning bugs are out!”

With that, I bounced off of my temporary perch on the garage steps into a full sprint to the middle of the yard.  

That is how it always started. It began with one small flicker of light. A couple of minutes later it happened again. Then, BOOM! The world would flash on and off in nature’s finest light show.  

That's what happened when the lightning bugs were out!   

What went unnoticed by many and was simply one of life’s many curiosities to others meant everything to this young boy.  

Frantically, I chased these blinking bugs around in my yard like a mad man. It was great fun.  One would flash and I would run in its general direction. By the time I arrived, the lightning bug was nowhere to be found. If I happened to be lucky enough to spot one that was in between flashes, I would try to quickly snatch it out of the air with my hand or an open Ball jar. The bug would get caught in the air current created and gently move out of the way.  I would come up empty once again. It was almost as if these little beetles were getting their kicks out of watching this little boy struggle to just get his hands on one of them.  

Before long, my daddy was by my side. He asked one of those brilliant father questions. He said, “Hey tiger, what are you doing?”

Was he serious. Couldn’t he see that I was about the business of trying catch one of these evasive fire flies.

As I leapt in another vain attempt to catch one as it gently flew above my head, I said with a grunt, “I’m trying to catch lightning bugs.”

He said, “Oh.”

I thought, “Aren’t you going to help me? Isn't that what dads are supposed to do?"

Then, just as I began to scramble off deeper into the yard, I happened to catch a glimpse of my dad’s right hand. There gently sitting in the palm of his hand was a bug. A black winged bug with little orange stripes down its sides. 

It just sat there flashing its little light in its own unique rhythm.

Excited I said, “Hey, how’d you ….”

Dad put his left index finger to his lips and then pointed to the firefly. It walked out onto the tip of his finger, spread its little wings, flashed its light one more time, and fluttered away.

Then dad said, “Fireflies are hard to get if you chase them. What you have to do is wait until you see one near you. Walk toward it and gently scoop the firefly into your open hand...That's how you catch a lightning bug.”

With that, my dad and I spent the next several minutes joining in the dance of these curious little bugs. They would land in our hands and we would enjoy their light together. 


Last night, I walked into my backyard with my daughter to witness nature's beautiful light display yet again. And just like my father and I did all those years ago, Allison and I scampered about catching and releasing these amazing bugs for over 30 minutes. It is one of our favorite summer activities.  

I simply cannot get enough of these little creatures and their bioluminescence - their "living-light-essence". 

They and their often flightless partners must shine their light in order to ensure the continuation of their kind. 

They live to create light and they create light to live. 

Hmm. Perhaps we have much to learn from the firefly. 

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that (other) may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

It begins with one small flicker of light.



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