It was a dark and damp night to be trudging through the weeds but science demands certain sacrifices so I found myself crawling under a bridge to pull water from a creek tonight. With the melancholy which seems to frequent me so often these days I squelched into the mud and observed faint glowing lights scattered about the creek banks.
“Fireflies” I thought. “They must be dying now that fall has come and the first temperature dip has hit”
Fireflies are one of my favorite parts of the Midwest with their lazy magical powers. That their lives were ending brought a sudden sadness to me with premonitions of the coming cold dark winter so I crouched to scoop one out of the mud so that I might wonder at it one last time. I hurried it back to my car with its cabin lights and discovered I held not a firefly but some sort of wingless beetle larvae.
“What else was there that glowed in the blackest night?” I wondered.
A bit of internet research and a few pictures later I discovered that fireflies have a larval stage which also glows (often called glowworms). I had stumbled not on the mass death of summer’s insects but on next year’s supply of fireflies going about their nightly prowl for food (they are vicious hunters of snails and slugs it turns out). I had seen only death and coldness along that muddy creek bank when what I was looking at was hope and regeneration. How careful we must be to see what the world really is and not fall prey to our fears. Light shines through the darkness and after winter comes the wondrous summer.
Bonus points if you can explain to me why larval fireflies glow.