Firefly Lifespan: How Long Do Lightning Bugs Live?

Fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, are a type of insects that belong to the beetle family. They’re not flies. Their scientific name is Lampyridae, and they have more than 2000 species.

They’re those insects that we know for glowing. It’s interesting to know that the ancient Chinese used to capture fireflies and keep them in jars as lanterns, but what can be interesting about a Firefly lifespan?

How Long Do Fireflies Live?

The lifespan of a firefly is long compared to other insects. They live for a whole year, but here’s the catch: they spend only two months of the twelve as adults!

That’s not the only interesting aspect of their life-cycle — there’s more. Let’s see the full details of how the firefly’s life unfolds.

Stage 1: The Egg

This is the very first stage, and it lasts from 3 to 4 weeks. After mating, the female fireflies lay their eggs in the soil. They prefer laying them in damp soil, under debris and mulch.

This process happens in midsummer and some of the eggs might actually glow. The firefly lays around 500 eggs. When the eggs hatch, they go to the next stage, the larva.

Stage 2: The Larval Period

This stage is the longest since it can last from 1 to 2 years. In the larval period, the firefly looks like a worm. It’s often called glow worm since all types of larvae glow at this stage.

They spend all their time in the soil, as they still can’t fly at this point. They hunt slugs, snails and worms to eat. They use enzymes to paralyze their prey.

After hunting, the larvae inject the prey with digestive enzymes, to liquefy it then suck out the remains.

This larva is about 3 quarters inch. This stage usually ends in spring, introducing the next stage, the pupa.

Stage 3: The Pupal Period

This stage lasts for almost 3 weeks, it’s the transformation from larva to adult firefly. So, how does this happen?

The larva pupates, which means that it goes into a shell, to protect itself in the process. The shell can be made of mud under the same soil, but some fireflies undergo this process while hanging from a tree like a caterpillar.

In this stage, the transformation cells do their work so that the larva that crawls can be a firefly with wings. That’s when the metamorphosis process is complete.

Stage 4: The Adult Firefly

This step lasts from 1 to 2 months. As soon as the pupal stage ends, at the beginning of the summer, we see the adult fireflies.

The adult fireflies don’t live for too long. Sometimes they die in a few weeks when they fail to mate. Usually, when they last for a month or two, they do two main things.

They mate, and they lay their eggs, allowing a new lifecycle to begin. Fireflies have different species, each with a different lighting pattern.

The male firefly flashes some patterns, then the female recognizes them. If the female likes those patterns, she responds by flashing some patterns too, and then they mate.

Fireflies glow to save their lives, however, toads and frogs don’t seem to care and they prey on fireflies. Spiders sometimes prey on fireflies too.

Where Do Fireflies Live?

Fireflies have different types and they live in almost all continents, except Antarctica. But what’s a suitable habitat for fireflies?

They prefer living around ponds, lakes, rivers. Basically anywhere with standing water. They also prefer warm habitats with humidity.

Fireflies are only active at night, so they spend their days laying on the ground.

What Does a Firefly Eat?

We mentioned earlier what the larva eats, but what about the adult firefly?

Some species feed on pollen and nectar plants, other species eat insects. And some of the adult fireflies don’t live that long to actually eat.

You’d be surprised to know that sometimes, predatory female fireflies from a species might flash a pattern of another species just to attract the male and prey on it.

How Do Adult Fireflies Glow?

The secret of their light is in the abdomen. What happens inside?

The chemical reaction is basically calcium, oxygen, and adenosine triphosphate combined together. With the presence of chemical luciferin and bioluminescence enzyme.

Fireflies produce cold light, and the whole process is called bioluminescence.

Why Do Adult Fireflies Glow?

Some adult fireflies don’t glow at all. Fireflies who glow, do that for two specific reasons:

  • They emit light in order to attract fireflies from the opposite sex.
  • They glow to alert predators that they’re not tasty.

Are Fireflies Harmful?

Not at all. Fireflies are not even poisonous and they don’t bite. They can even be useful. How?

The chemicals that the fireflies use to produce light (luciferin and luciferase) can actually be used for medical reasons.

They’re used in research related to some diseases like cancer, diabetes, allergies and heart diseases.

However, catching them for these medical reasons might be why they’re decreasing. Are they extinct?

Are Fireflies Extinct?

Fireflies are not extinct yet, however, we know for sure that they’re disappearing. Why is that?

The development and the contamination ruin the habitat of the fireflies. They can go to another place with the same characteristics, right? No. Fireflies don’t travel to another place, they disappear when their habitat is destroyed.

Another reason for their disappearance is light pollution. What does that mean?

Fireflies depend on their light mainly in communication, mating, and other stuff. With the night lights emitted from supermarkets, cars, restaurants, and different human activities, their communication becomes difficult.

Summing Up

Fireflies light up in yellow, green, orange and sometimes blue. They are very effective when it comes to emitting light as 100% of their energy goes to that, unlike light bulbs that emit light with 10% of the energy and waste 90% in heat.

Firefly lifespan as an adult is pretty short compared to its whole lifecycle, but it does manage to light up our world even if only for a couple of months.