• Shana Ritter

Fireflies

I am mourning the loss of fireflies: the warm summer dusks that raise the cacophony of insect symphony and frog calls followed by the rising dark and the emergence of the lights appearing between tree branches as if starlight had broken off from heaven and descended like rain. In the last few years that plethora of magic, the small signaling glows, those beats of light have so diminished that I can easily count how many I see in an evening, as few as ten on some nights.

In my own childhood we would catch fireflies in jars and use our enchanted lanterns to explore the edges beyond the lawn. We’d climb onto the low branches of trees and with our own source of light make the night a place of story. Before bed we’d release them, even with the holes hammered into the lids we didn’t want to chance capture becoming a permanent thing and so set them free.

My own children chased them in the yard, in the park, on the expansive lawn in front of the screen at the Star Lite Drive In as the sunset gave way to the time for films to be shown. Bands of small children’s shadows came up on the screen arms reaching upward as the fireflies disappeared into the glow from the old projector.

Each evening I go out onto the front porch and wait for them, if they sang their voices would be faint now, as it is the ones that remain release their lights with the same strong beauty as ever, There are just so few of them, so very few.

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A fact or two….Some say Firefly others Lightening Bugs, either way they have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. The insects take in oxygen and, inside special cells, combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat. Firefly light is usually intermittent, and flashes in patterns that are unique to each species. Each blinking pattern is an optical signal that helps fireflies find potential mates.  Nobody knows for sure why they are disappearing. But most researchers blame two main factors: development and light pollution.

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