Lightning Bug and Bee balm

When picturing lightning bugs, people might think of sticky hot summer days in their youth trying to catch those little fireflies. Lightning bugs are known for their beauty and light. However, fireflies are more important than people realize. They are pollinators!

Lightning bugs have diets of pollen and nectar. Their larvae (baby fireflies) also help protect plants by eating dangerous pests to flowers like worms or slugs. There are more than 20 species in Massachusetts alone compared to the 2,000 existing on Earth. That’s a lot of fireflies!

Bee balm (also called Monarda) is one of the flowers that lightning bugs both pollinate and protect. Bee balm is just as important as fireflies, even though the flower doesn’t glow! It attracts all kinds of pollinators besides just fireflies. Birds, beetles, butterflies and bees love bee balm, and it can help sustain endangered species. And bee balm doesn’t only exist in the garden. Bee balm is edible and can be used to treat bee stings or rashes. What a cool plant.

However, there are many problems facing lightning bugs. Light pollution is a huge problem. Lightning bugs cannot reproduce because light pollution is too bright for their mating signals! The other problem is the destruction of their habitats. Marshes are becoming golf courses, forests becoming malls. So how can we help? One solution is to plant pollinators and long grasses for the lightning bugs like bee balm. Another solution is to turn off lights more often to reduce your own light pollution. Finally, reducing pesticides can help lightning bugs continue to thrive. Without fireflies, the world would be a dark place indeed. Let’s help them continue to light it up.

 

Further readings and how to help

A semi realistic mural of a lighting bug and Bee Balm. The lightning bug has its wings spread open and is on the right side. In the bottom left is the bee balm flower, with light pink petals and stamens. In the background on the right is a pink circle, and leaves behind the flower.