Everyone loves fireflies and everyone loves babies, so it sounds like baby fireflies would be extra cute, right? But….
Baby fireflies are ruthless carnivores dedicated to gluttony and growth. During their juvenile stage, most fireflies live in soil and rotting wood, where they prey upon earthworms, snails, and other soft-bodied creatures.
For the past several weeks, I’ve kept busy rearing 20 Lucidota firefly larvae. Just 5 weeks after they hatched out from eggs, my baby fireflies are growing fast. But I have to admit, watching them eat is getting scary! If you’ve seen Stranger Things, maybe you’ll know what I mean.
At rest, these babies huddle together. When I give them an earthworm they quickly gang up on it. This gregarious feeding habit lets them take down prey much, much bigger than themselves. Using their sickle-shaped jaws, they inject the worm with paralyzing neurotoxins. Then, while it’s still alive, they cut it up it into pieces. Over the next 24 hours, they line up like suckling piglets to suck up their liquified prey. Yum – nice fresh earthworm smoothie, anyone?
Anyway, each night before I go to bed, I now check to make sure my baby fireflies are securely inside their containers. So sweet dreams!