There Are More Lightning Bugs in the Chicago Area This Summer. Here’s Why

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2019-07-29 17:04:40

They come out at dusk to the delight of children everywhere, but this year, lightning bugs are giving off an even greater glow. 

That’s because there are more of them – a lot more, experts say. 

Allan Lawrance, associate curator of entymology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, said a bumper crop of bugs is due to a rainy spring in the Chicago area.

“Fireflies do really well when there’s a wet spring because the larvae feed on other animals that live in wet environments, so they’re eating snails, slugs, millipedes — those sort of things that thrive in wet environments,” Lawrance said. 

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Lawrance said during the day, lightning bugs live in lawns and that’s where the females stay. It’s the males that put on the light show at night, hoping to attract a mate.

“They’re signaling to female fireflies that are down in your lawn,” Lawrance said. “If a female likes the male signal, they’ll flash back and they’re letting that male know, ‘I’m here’ and then the male goes to find the female.” 

But it’s not all about mating. Some species light up to trick others.

“There are some fireflies that will signal to a different species, draw them in and instead of mating, they get eaten,” Lawrance said. 

In addition to lightning bugs, there is another insect making an appearance right now: a certain type of cicada.

“Every year we have a group of cicadas that emerge called dog day cicadas, ’cause it’s the dog days of summer,” Lawrance said.

While a big cicada infestation won’t happen again until 2024, Lawrance says you will see and hear plenty now.

“They come out in the evening and, again, it’s just like the fireflies. It’s courtship behavior, so you have the males calling trying to attract a mate,” said Lawrance.

The sights and sounds of nature’s dating game, on full display this summer. Lawrance says the lightning bugs will only be around for a few more weeks.

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