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When Fireflies Await a Night That Never Comes - The New York Times

When Fireflies Await a Night That Never Comes - The New York Times

When Fireflies Await a Night That Never Comes - The New York Times
Aug 11, 2022 1 min, 29 secs

A study found that while some fireflies shrugged off light pollution, members of other species failed to mate even when males and females could find each other.

Soon, the twilight is full of drifting lights, each winking a message in peculiar semaphore: “Male seeks female for brief union.” This courtship plays out on summer nights the world over among beetles of the Lampyridae family, commonly known as fireflies.

But in a study published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, she and Sara Lewis, a professor of biology at Tufts University, shone some light on how fireflies respond to artificial illumination.

Fireflies seem to rely primarily on flashes of light to find each other, which means light pollution could threaten their ability to see mates.

Lewis found that shining light on female fireflies of the species Photinus obscurellus made them less likely to respond to the males’ calls.

She speculates that the fireflies are interpreting the light as daytime and are waiting to mate in dimmer conditions — essentially waiting for a night that never comes.

But even where the light was almost blinding to the researchers, fireflies of both species somehow found each other and mated successfully.

In a group as large and diverse as fireflies — more than 2,000 species worldwide — adaptation to different levels of darkness may mean different responses to light pollution, the researchers surmise.

Of the four species in the study, P.

Could there be a version of artificial lighting that’s friendly to all fireflies — a wavelength of light that works for humans and for light-sensitive insects

While the study suggests that fireflies might be able to flee light pollution for havens of darkness, if there is no dark place left for them, the nightly symphony of tiny lights may become a thing of the past


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