An Investment Pays Off
I have no idea why, but it’s the best year for lightning bugs that I can remember. For the last two nights Ngnat, Scotty M–who refers to them as “gold bugs”–and I have caught between 60 and 70 in the thirty-five minute period between 8:10, when the first one typically lights up, and 8:45, when it gets too dark to track them effectively after the flash.
Last night the captured fireflies spent their evening in jars, one for each kid’s bedroom, but tonight we let them go once it got too dark to keep going. My reasoning was that even the most hardy firefly would suffer if it had to spend two nights in a row cooped up in a Mason Jar with 40 of its brethren. Ngnat and Scotty didn’t seem to have a problem with that. At least, they made no objection to the new plan.
In any case, both much prefer the hunt. In past years, I was the stalker of the bugs, but now each races across the yard upon sighting the neon yellow J of a male firefly on the make, hand cupped and ready to strike. Their technique is somewhat sloppy, and Scotty’s captures enter the jar somewhat the worse for wear, but both are successful more often than not.
So, afterwards we sat on the deck stairs, watching as the 60-odd temporary detainees of our glass Guantanamos mounted to the lip of their erstwhile prison and flew off, save for the three or four Coleopteran exhibitionists that simply could not wait and had begun mating inside the jars. As if to make up for lost time, the others began flashing immediately upon exit. Adding their efforts to those of the other 60 or so that we had not caught, it became quite a show. For the next 15 minutes, 5 or 6 flashes went off every couple of seconds somewhere in my field of vision. For a while Ngnat and Scotty were duly impressed, but eventually became blase about the whole thing and headed in. I stayed on the deck until the displays faded to one a second or so.
Like I said above, I’m not sure why we have so many this year, but after some googling, I have suspicions. It seems that the larvae of some species will burrow underground and go several years before metamorphosing into adults. What do they eat while crawling around in the dirt? Snails, slugs, and…earthworms.
Come with me now, on a trip into the distant past.
“You spent 65 dollars buying worms off the internet?” Warm.
I admitted that yes, I had indeed spent 65 dollars buying worms off the internet, but that the consequent money saved in fertilizer would more than adequately…
“You spent 65 dollars buying worms off the internet!!” Getting warmer!
“Yes dear, but I’ll have THREE TIMES the number of worms that I ordered by September. And the lawn will be the envy of the neighborhood!”
“Don’t worms come to the surface when it rains?” Getting colder!
“Yes, that’s a plus you see, because their burrows allow water to penetrate deeper into the ground, which promotes a much stronger root system than one would normally..”
“So, after it rains, our lawn will be covered in literally thousands of worms.” Monotone. “That WILL be the envy of the neighborhood.”
Thanks, Uncle Jim.