Have you ever seen a Firefly?

Now is the time to see Fireflies as they emerge from the dark, damp depths of the rainforest looking for a mate.  Have you ever seen the twinkling, mesmerising little glow that flickers around the rainforests of Northern NSW in September/ October?  You may remember them from your childhood when you tried to capture one in a glass jar to study more closely.

The blinking, surprisingly bright light is the mating dance of this increasingly rare insect, the Firefly.

What are they?

The firefly is in fact not a fly at all but a beetle from the family group Lampyridae. There are around 2000 species around the world, with just 25 species in Australia. Their larvae are called glow worms.


Why do they flash?

The males are the main flashers, and they cruise at night in search of a female. The female firefly will respond with a favourable blink to a worthy suitor. To detect these blinks, which are often far off, or pulsating amongst any number of firefly signals, the male is equipped with large eyes and a visor for ultra-mating focus.

Interestingly, the flash produced by fireflies is a “cold light”, having no ultraviolet or infrared frequencies. This chemically sourced light, which can be yellow, green or pale-red, projects wavelengths from 510 to 670 nanometres.

Lifecycle of the Firefly

There’s a sense  of urgency in the firefly’s flash,  because they’re in a hurry to mate due to their short life span. The life cycle of a firefly spans about two years and the majority of that is spent as a caterpillar. There’s only about three weeks of a firefly’s life when they’re actually a ‘fire’ fly.The larvae produced from this hurried courtship, are luminous from an early age and are often referred to as ‘glow worms.’ They feed on snails by paralysing them. Adult fireflies, however, are believed not to eat at all.

The larvae  has a flat, segmented body resembling a kind of serrated flatworm. This larvae has two little ‘windows’ at the back end of its body through which a pale green glow is seen. Glow worms are also seen at night in the rainforest and on the banks of Duck Creek, Alstonville.

For more detailed information of their lifecycle go to https://www.lfwseq.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Land-for-Wildlife-Newsletter-October-2010.pdf


Where do find them?

In order to feed their larvae, fireflies are drawn towards temperate or tropical places, particularly wet, wooded areas such as rainforests where there’s an abundance of food. During the larvae stage, fireflies will hibernate over winter, burrowing underground or hiding under the bark of trees. The larvae will then emerge in spring to feast.

In Australia, fireflies inhabit the forests and mangroves along the coast of New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory.With droughts and forest fires the firefly population has been hit hard. But here on the Northern Rivers where we escaped the trauma of the worst of the fires, we are hopeful our local firefly population is relatively intact.


Alstonville Country Cottages

The remnant of the Big Scrub Rainforest https://www.rainforestrescue.org.au/big-scrub-past-present-map/ on the property of Alstonville Country Cottages is a great spot to see these elusive creatures. The best time is just on dark around the edge of the forest. Away from the light,  your eyes will  become adjusted to the darkness, and you will see a little bobbing light. From September through to November is the best time to spot them.

Experience the magic.Darting through the night air, creating a scintillating display of wonder with its luminous beauty, the firefly draws you to it like a child in a fairy tale.

Come and stay and see if you can see a Firefly for yourself!