\nok-tuh-LOO-suhnt\ , adjective:
Visible during the short night of the summer.
I don’t want to be dramatic, but I think fireflies are the coolest things ever. Well, the coolest noctilucent things ever. Here are some stellar noctilucent facts:
They are winged beetles, and commonly called fireflies or lightning bugs for their conspicuous crepuscular (former word of the day) use of bioluminescence (future word of the day) to attract mates or prey.
Fireflies produce a “cold light”, with no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies. The cells contain a chemical called luciferin and make an enzyme called luciferase. To make light, the luciferin combines with oxygen to form an inactive molecule called oxyluciferin.
Where are fireflies in September-May? Glad you asked.
Fireflies hibernate over winter during the larval stage, some species for several years. Some do this by burrowing underground, while others find places on or under the bark of trees. They emerge in the spring. After several weeks of feeding, they pupate for 1.0 to 2.5 weeks and emerge as adults.
Drum roll, please…this is awesome.
One day years past, when I was working at Mast, I was hanging out with 3 of my very favorite people and told them what I had heard at work about how that night was the very night when fireflies congregate and you can see thousands and thousands at a time. We contemplated driving to Elkmont, Tennessee because many sightings took place there of the fireflies synchronizing their light. Crazy. But we stayed in, ate sundaes, and watched MacGyver. When we left the apartment, honestly, I think I remember thinking, “I will never forget this moment for as long as I live.” In the woods adjacent to us, the darkness was completely lit up. There was firefly rapid fire. It was amazing. It kind of looked like fireworks in the woods. Unreal.
Here’s what the always-true internet says about this:
This phenomenon is explained as phase synchronization and spontaneous order. At night along river banks in the Malaysian jungles (the most notable ones found near Kuala Selangor), fireflies synchronise their light emissions precisely. Current hypotheses about the causes of this behavior involve diet, social interaction, and altitude. …In the United States, one of the most famous sightings of fireflies blinking in unison occurs annually near Elkmont, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains during the first weeks of June. Congaree National Park in South Carolina is another host to this phenomenon.