Tag Archives: Dwight Sullivan

We harvested 100 million U.S. fireflies?

Believe it or not, from 1960 until the mid-1990s, the Sigma Chemical Company (now called Sigma-Aldrich) harvested about 3 million wild fireflies  every year. Each summer, they ran newspaper ads like this, and paid  collectors across the U.S. a penny per firefly (with a $20 bonus for collecting than 200,000).8-3 Sigma ad

What did they do with all those fireflies?

They extracted firefly luciferase, the light-producing enzyme, then sold it for use in food safety testing and research.
But synthetic luciferase has been available since 1985.
Not only is this synthetic enzyme cheaper and much more reliable, but it also protects the firefly populations that are part of our shared natural heritage.