Communicating with fireflies



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The news about an insect that I read is an article published in The New York Times. In the article, a scientist attempts to communicate with a firefly using a firefly communicator device. The news begins with a brief introduction of fireflies; that about 2000 known species of fireflies inhabit temperate and tropical forests around the world. As a larvae, all of them produce bioluminescent light through a chemical reaction inside their abdomens, but only some will flash when they become an adult beetles. These selective beetles are called fireflies. Fireflies use their flash for various purpose including attracting opposing sexes, warning predators about their toxicity, and for few types, to attract other types of insects to feed on. Most of the fireflies have developed their own flash patterns, which is being used as a language among the same species. In the news article, the scientist uses a hand-held communicator device with a shape of firefly, that is operated on battery. It also has two buttons that control an LED light. The scientist attempted two times to attract male and female, respectively. Attracting male fireflies was relatively easier than attracting female. When he tried to attract male fireflies, he just hit the button that creates a female sound and waited. Because the female fireflies are selective, he didn’t have to move. He stayed still and waited for a male firefly to come close. The button was programmed to wait two seconds before blinking back. When he noticed flashes nearby him, he clicked the button again to attract them closer. In contrast to his first attempt, it was much difficult when he tried to attract a female fireflies. According to a proven source, male fireflies are more mobile and have fancier flash patterns. This meant that he should move faster and in more dynamic ways. Therefore, he clicked on the freestyle button to imitate the “male pattern”, flashing five times in a row. However, this only made female fly away. He assumed that he did something wrong, like not giving an appropriate amount of time in between the flashes. One interesting theory states that male fireflies tend to dim their lights as they draw closer to females. Perhaps he couldn’t draw females because he didn’t dim his light.

I chose this news article specifically because I wanted to know more about the fireflies. It has been quite long since I have last encountered them, and I was curious to hear about their recent doings. It was interesting to see how it required different techniques to attract male and female fireflies. It was fascinating to read through the process of mimicking them, and how he gave different seconds of intervals in between the flashes- to attract males, he used female specific button, and to attract female, he used freestyle button. Moreover, it was also interesting to note that male fireflies dim their lights as they draw closer to females. Overall, the article was very fascinating, and I wish I have an opportunity to communicate with them sometime in the near future.



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