They Be Drowning in Light

Bright nights are making it hard for glow-worms to find a mate (female Lampyris noctiluca; photo by John Tyler)

Glow-worms & fireflies are uniquely susceptible to light pollution because our bright nights interfere with their ability to find mates. Fiona Benson’s poem beautifully captures the urgency of female glow-worm – “come find me – it is time – and almost dawn’ – and the male’s dilemma:

“all night he looks for her in petrol stations
villages and homesteads, the city’s neon signs:
where are you – it is time – and almost dawn.”

Love Poem, Lampyridae (Glowworms) by Fiona Benson

The female born again with little changed
except she has no mouth and may not eat,
except she has this urge to climb, and a light
she must raise and twist; the male born again
with little changed except he has no mouth,
except he has this urge to search, and wings –
oh she must twist and turn her tail’s green fire
like bait, its little stab of brightness in the night,
and he must search with wings through
    troubled air
to find her pinhole lure, its single, green,
seducing star …. All night she signals him in:
come find me – it is time – and almost dawn;
all night he looks for her in petrol stations
villages and homesteads, the city’s neon signs:
where are you – it is time – and almost dawn….

Once were humans wandered in the lanes,
led astray by fairies, foxfire, who found
their stranger selves and brought them home

Now the dark is drowned, but some things
you can only find beyond the light,
and it is time and almost dawn and love,
my love, there is no finding then.

Published in The Guardian, part of Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry collection celebrating the beauty of a vanishing insect world.