From Paul Saltzman, in Oakville, Ontario –
As a filmmaker, I’ve had many grand experiences of nature: 8 days of floating down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, every second bringing a new vision of beauty; flying over the Amazonian watershed, trees so thick you couldn’t see the ground but the sun glistened beneath the trees because water entirely covered the forest floor. And then there was Zanzibar….
From Joanne, in Wisconsin –
About 15 years ago we held a family reunion near a small lake in the Blue Ridge Mountains, near Saluda, NC. It was around July 4th, so around the lake lots of people were setting off fireworks. We were gathered by the lake near a wide grassy area that led right up to the base of the mountain. That night the fireflies appeared around dusk, just when the fireworks started. Although the fireworks were going off much higher up, we realized that down below the fireflies’ flashing was gradually getting synched up with the fireworks. As it got darker, the coordination seemed to increase so that every time a firework went off, the fireflies would light up, all pretty much at the same time.
It was a magical scene – a constellation of yellow-green flashes lighting up down near the ground, triggered by the dramatic firework explosions in the sky. And the fireflies earned much bigger “ooooohs!” than the fireworks! Only later did I learn that what we were seeing were probably the romantic signals of male Photinus carolinus fireflies, flashing together like one big mega-male to try to win the favor of their females.
From Kumiko Kishimoto, in Okinawa –
When I was growing up in the 1950s, we lived at the west end of a village called Yabu-son, outside Nago. We kept our house wide open, even at night, especially during the hot summer. In the evenings after supper, my grandmother would sit with me and my siblings at the edge of wooden hallway, which ran alongside the south-east side of our house. As we sat enjoying cool breeze, we sang songs, talked about little things happened during the day, and memorized the multiplication table with Grandmother.
This northern part of Okinawa had no electricity until the mid-1950s, so it really became pitch dark after sunset. In those days, my grandmother’s house was lit only by a single kerosene lamp which Mom used in the kitchen as she cleaned up after supper.
- Baby Kumiko (left), sits on her grandfather Morigen Kishimoto’s lap. Ushi, her grandmother, holds her brother Moriyuki (Okinawa, early 1950s)
As we sat with Grandmother, suddenly we’d spot the first firefly. They seemed to magically appear and light up the darkness around the house. We’d catch as many as we could, and put them into Mason jars left over from the American soldiers. We were mesmerized by the glowing lights – they seemed like a symphony! Though it’s hard to explain, even now I remember how magical those lights were.
From Param and Shikha Singh, via The Untourists –
At the onset of the monsoons in early June, we traveled to a small village near Sangamner in rural Maharashtra. We went to Purushwadi, a tiny village 1000 m above mean sea level, based only on some promises we’d heard. During this season, this valley was said to transform into a heaven of fireflies at night. As it turned out, these promises and more were delivered!
Our trip was arranged by Grassroutes (more info below). The journey to Purushwadi was beautiful, though at one point we had to cross a river via a narrow, rusty bridge. I was scared that our car would get scratched, but luckily it was just wide enough. In the village, Grassroutes runs small tent accommodations with clean toilets. We shared meals with a village family in their hut, and tasting the pure village food was wonderful: dal, farm fresh sabzi, (vegetable) , and rotis made of pearl millet (bajra) flour.
From Katarina D. in Philippines –
I will always remember the first time I saw fireflies as a child – it was like I was given a rare gift as a surprise. Those tiny creatures lit up something in me — a sense that there were things out there far beyond my reach and expectations, a sense of wonder. My curiosity about the world beyond my home was born at that moment, I think, when I realized that there were so many things I didn’t know. The desire to learn, to read and discover was awakened. With the opening of my mind, my world suddenly became bigger. Even now every time I see fireflies, I’m instantly filled with joy.
From Joanna in Illinois:
Not only do fireflies amazingly light up like they were chain-smoking cigarettes in the backyard, but they don’t do any of the annoying things that other insects do like buzz, sting, bite, drink your blood, attach themselves to you or your dog, contaminate your food, ruin your picnic, destroy your crops, or chew up your house. And, by the way, if you have one of those torture devices on your patio commonly known as the “bug zapper,” then get rid of it immediately because it lures fireflies and then electrocutes them.
with its turn signal on—
no corners in sight.—Joanna Key
From Thomas S., outside Chicago:
Many years ago, my brothers, friends and I ventured out almost every hot summer night into the wilds of Haynes Park in Wilmington, Delaware. Our mission was capturing fireflies for a neighbor, a DuPont chemist who helped crack the code of chemoluminescence that would eventually lead to glowsticks. The adults in the neighborhood affectionately called us “the firefly kids” but we considered ourselves “science adventurers” as we explored the wilds of our neighborhood city park.
The park was aglow almost every night. We came to know every square inch of it, and also managed to find every poison ivy plant, discover every knee-skinning rock and get bitten by every mosquito. But we were supremely happy and we captured lots of fireflies. Even at such a young age, we were fascinated by their cold light, and tested whether their light gave off any heat by placing the bugs on our tongues. We had no fear because those lightningbugs were our friends and companions. Continue reading
From Michelle in Wisconsin –
In our family lore, we have a lightning bug love story that happened some 70+ years ago. One night, when my Mom & Dad were still teenagers, they were out walking and my Dad caught a lightning bug. He used its lantern to trace a glowing line around my mother’s ring finger. Then he vowed “Here’s the first of many rings to prove how much I love you.”
To celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary, we filled the hall with jars of firefly lights – for our family, fireflies will always go hand-in-hand with romance.
From Mark G. in Tokyo-
Summers were full of lightning bugs where I grew up in West Virginia. When the first ones came out at dusk, we’d catch them easily with our hands. But it got a lot harder to catch the ones that came out later after dark. So then my sister and I would take to whacking the fireflies out of the air with our Fun-go baseball bats.
Once our bats were good and gooey with lightning bugs, we’d swirl them around to trace glowing figures in the dark, until Mom finally called us in to bed.
Editor’s note: This apparently uniquely American pastime of bashing lightningbugs is confirmed here and here and here.
I love this story about Japanese fireflies (from a 2003 PureLandMountain blogpost) –
Tonight we chased a sliver of a moongrin across the big bridge over the Lake to take Kaya (2 1/2 years old now) to a famed hotaru (firefly) stream … down through the deep dark to the firefly kingdom along the stream in its place beneath the tall trees, where the even deeper darkness was lit like a microstarry night with nothing but wisping flights of limegreen, surprisingly bright flashes rising, swooping, curving, softly floating, flitting here and there going on and off, sparkles resting in their hundreds on the leaves or falling sudden to the ground, kids, mothers, fathers and grandfolks trying to coax the little green stars to their hands, everyone glowing with the mysterious green fire that reflected in the eyes, the faces lit with awe and Kaya too was wide-eyed watching light walk in her hand.