Nature Research Center

Flashers Attract Mates

After two years underground, larval fireflies emerge as adults to spend their last two weeks of life in bioluminescent ritual courtship. The males flash in species-specific aerial displays while the females sit nearby evaluating potential mates, sometimes responding with a flash of their own. A female may "chat up" as many as 10 males in one night and can keep multiple chats going at once, but eventually selects the male with the most impressive light display.  The lucky suitor presents the female with a nuptial gift of nutrients to fortify her eggs, increasing her chances of reproductive success.

Some suitors are not so lucky -- predatory Photuris fireflies are also watching, and may mimic the interested response of a female Photinus to lure the males to their doom.

Related Links

"Blink Twice if You Like Me" by Carl Zimmer, The New York Times

Firefly Watch - report your firefly sightings and help scientists track firefly populations!