Why do lightning bugs light up

A lightning bug is also known as a firefly and as both the names suggest, it is an insect that lights up. Although these insects are referred to as fireflies, they are not flies, but beetles. The phenomenon by which a firefly lights its abdomen is termed as bioluminescence and it is mostly seen among creatures that live under the water than in creatures that leave above the ground. The abdomen of the lightning bugs contains the chemical luciferin and the enzyme luciferase, both of which are responsible for the light that we see flashing within their abdomen. The chemical reaction that takes place when the luciferin mixes with the oxygen in air is a complex two stage reaction. The equations below should help one understand the entire reaction that finally causes the tiny sparks we see on fireflies.

Step 1:

luciferin + cellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) —–> luciferyl adenylate + pyrophosphate (PPi)

Step 2:

luciferyl adenylate + O₂ —–> oxyluciferin + adenosine monophosphate (AMP) + light

The entire reaction takes place on the surface of the luciferase enzyme and the enzyme also helps to increase the pace.

The uric acid crystals that are present within the special abdominal cells of the lightning bugs, then reflect the light outside and that attracts fireflies of the opposite sex from the same species. Fireflies use their flashing abilities as means to communicate with their mate. Lightning bugs that are interested in mating flash and potential mates from the opposite sex respond by flashing immediately after. Lightning bugs neither attract nor mate with lightning bugs that are from another species and in order to maintain this, each species of lightning bug flashes in a pattern that is different from the patterns of all the other species.

A firefly larva is quite different from a matured firefly. The lightning bug larvae are ferocious predators that hunt down and eat slugs, snails and other similar creatures. They are often known to hunt in a group to bring down a bigger prey as well. Even a lightning bug larvae glows, but on the ground, it can often be easily confused with the glow-worm.