Sunday, July 15, 2007

Stamp of the Day: Firefly

The fireflies are here! I love this creature, actually there are many species, and I love their lightning spiel in the dark evenings and nights of the summer. We have at least two species here in New Jersey, one that blink one long time often while flying upwards, and another that is mostly in trees and blinks three short signals. In a book I read recently, they described how they drive up to a meadow in a car, turn off the car lights and then turn them on quickly for a short second and in return all the fireflies blink back at them all at once. That must be amazing to see. In Sweden there are no fireflies, only 'lysmaskar' that only sit still, never fly, which is kind of boring but better than nothing. Maybe you'll get some flying ones with global warming...

The light of the fireflies is cold, since it has no UV rays in it, and is produced through a chemical reaction and the enzyme luciferase. Scientists have inserted the gene for this enzyme in mice and potatoes in the lab (easier to dig for the potatoes then?). In forensics they use this enzyme to see blood stains since the enzyme only reacts if it has a substrate like blood or other cells to react with. The Chinese used to capture them and had them caged in lanterns. And finally, the firefly is the state insect of Pennsylvania. It is good too - the larvae eats snails!


O.K. said...

But lysmaskar can sit and wave their light, looks pretty cool when a bunch of them do that. Are you sure you don't mean IR rays instead of UV?

An acquaintance bought a cricket from china, sealed up in a paper box with food in it. If you get several you can have a surround sound system! :)

LS said...

It said UV rays in the Wikipedia article, so if that is incorrect then Wikipedia is the source of error :) Felpedia!