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iLabs: Visitor Question: What Do Fireflies Eat?

August 21, 2012

A recent visitor was perusing our bioluminescence display, which happens to have a picture of a firefly on it. (That is because fireflies, along with the plankton we are raising, both exhibit this phenomenon, using different forms of the chemical luciferin and the enzyme, luciferase.)

The visitor then asked “What do fireflies eat?”  Since we did not know that question went into our “research an answer for a visitor” pile. Without further delay, here is some information on the question, from our entomology expert, Dr. Colin Brammer:

“Firefly larvae feed on slugs, snails, (not puppy dog tails) and worms.  No one is sure what adults eat, or if they eat at all.  If adults do eat, it would probably be pollen and nectar.  Fireflies are notoriously hard to keep in culture in a lab, and very difficult to study in the wild, due to their secretive habits.

There is one genus of firefly Photuris which eats other fireflies.  The females are known as the femme fatale because she mimics the flashing pattern of males of the genus Photinus to draw them in and use them for food.

The best resource for info is here: http://www.firefly.org/facts-about-fireflies.html

Also useful info here: http://iris.biosci.ohio-state.edu/projects/ffiles/

There is also a Citizen science watch program that people can get into: https://www.mos.org/fireflywatch/

There is a meet the scientist page (https://www.mos.org/fireflywatch/meet_the_scientists) at that site as well.”

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