In mid-July when ripe blueberries are ready to be picked, the fireflies emerge at night. At first there are a few whose solitary flashes for attention are in vain in the search for a mate. But when the temperature and humidity is just right, they emerge en masse in an irregular synchrony of a low-powered, silent fireworks exhibition. They flitter about in what appears to be chaos but when taken together it appears as a highly choreographed dance. Like commuters in a busy train station, they make their own way in a crowded room without crashing into one another in the dark.
They increase in visible number with the darkening sky until they are the only lights in the back woods. Our yard is not the best area to view these aerial evening lanterns as security lights, bedroom lamps and porch floods throw an unwelcome glow that contract your pupils making it harder to see the artistry of these bugs and their tiny glowing bottoms. A better place to spot them is in a nearby isolated field. Is this area we can appreciate their numbers. One approaches me and I can follow its path as its flash brightens to a high intensity and then quickly fades without going out. During this low wattage portion of its flight, it traces a fine line in the dark sky with a glowing punctuation every 5 seconds or so announcing its presence and intentions to all in view.
But it not alone in this pursuit in one of nature’s examples of speed dating as it flies in all directions, flashing its message with the hope of attracting a female that will flash back that it has found a particular bug interesting. It’s hard to tell when that happens. This lack of knowledge does not spoil the experience but makes it all the more amazing that it is able to occur at all.