Some people call them fireflies, others call them lightning bugs. They're actually the same thing. You probably remember seeing them in your backyard and if you were afraid of them you'd dodge them. Just when you thought you'd cleared their path, you realized there were about ten of them behind you.

The more bold individuals would grab a jar and catch as many as they could and would watch them light a path for you. The more you caught, the brighter the light got and they often became a child's favorite flashlight.

For those of you who were afraid of the fireflies in your backyard, you have nothing to fear. They are harmless to humans and you can now relax and watch them as they fill your backyard on the most humid days of the year.

fireflies in a jar

There Are Different Kinds Of Fireflies

This shouldn't come as a surprise since there are so many of them. There are thousands of different types of fireflies. They're found all over the world in humid climates. Fireflies are divided into 5 different sub categories called families. Due to the fact that all lightning bugs need humidity to survive, the only place they haven't been seen is Antarctica.

The firefly is scientifically considered part of the beetle family. Not all fireflies produce a light. Some rely soley on scent to find their mate instead of using using their internal bulbs.


Most common in North America. The fireflies in this species don't all light up, but the ones that do are placed into three categories within this family of the firefly because these are the ones that are very similar to each other.

Photinus: These are the most common in this species. They're about half an inch long and emit a light that is a yellowish-green glow.

Photuris: A larger sized firefly that is almost an inch long. Their light is a darker green color. These are called "femme fatale" fireflies because they can trick the Photinus bugs by mirroring their light patterns. The Photinus approach the Photuris and instead of finding their mate, they become a meal.

Pyractomena: This lightning bug is easy to tell from the previous to because they produce an orange-amber light that looks like a spark from a fire. 


The largest of the sub families for this insect. They're found in East Asia, Europe and Australia. The flies in this family produce a light that flashes instead of glowing consistently.

Peroptyx: Found in the tropical regions of Asia. These lightning bugs sync their lights together until there is a large group of them all flashing lights at the same time. It's said to create a breathtaking display for anyone who's in their presence.

Luciola: Found in Asia mostly, but can also be seen on rare occasions in southern Europe and Africa. These are known as "Japanese Fireflies" and according to the Chinese, they represent the souls of the dead.


Most common in Eurasia and scientists consider this the most primitive of the fireflies in existence. This sub family includes one firefly that has a dim light while the other doesn't light up at all.


This group includes fireflies that have flashing lights as well as those that create a continuous glow. The larvae from this subfamily can be found in most northern regions in trees because they like to feed on snails and other bugs.

Lampyris: In this group, only the males fly and they don't emit light while the females are unable to fly, yet they light up to help her mate find her while he's flying above. They're found in Britain because they like grass that has high amounts of limestone. These are the fireflies most commonly referred to as the "glow worm".

Phausis reticulata: Studies the least by scientists. They're called "blue ghost fireflies" because they emit a ghost-like blue color. The females do not have wings and they have more of a pale light than the male, who's color is deeper. The male "ghost firefly" has wings and both male and females in this group emit a light that is very faint.







They Don't Eat Much

Fireflies live to mate. That's about the extent of their purpose. They eat when they are small on snails and other bugs. Once they become adults, they use their lights to attract a partner, lay eggs and the parents die once their children are born.


How They Protect Themselves

Of course they have to protect themselves. No, they don't have stingers, but they do manage to deter their enemies by squirting blood into their predator's mouth. The blood tastes very bitter which turns them into something that isn't desired by other animals that like to eat bugs.

This blood sometimes (depending on the species) has poison in it so it's not a good idea to feed fireflies to your pet reptiles or any of your other pets that like bugs.

blue ghost firefly

Their Eggs Glow

Many of the lightning bugs have eggs that glow. Sometimes the eggs have a consistent glow while others blink or hair a more ghostly appearance. The intensity of the light is affected by stimuli which can include vibrations or any kind of movements of their nest from the outside world.

The next time you're able to see fireflies in your area, feel free to pick one up and let it walk across your hand. They may tickle your hand, but they seem to like people. They may not look very pretty during the day, but at night it's their time to shine. Sit back and enjoy the light show.