Glow-worm phos­pho­res­cence

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Our Wild World -

1 HOW AND WHY DO GLOWWORMS CRE­ATE LIGHT? Glow-worms are ac­tu­ally bee­tles, found in species-rich mead­ows and grass­land across much of the UK. Only the adult fe­males glow, to at­tract the fly­ing males. The yel­low-green light – pro­duced by mix­ing two chem­i­cals, lu­ciferin and lu­ciferase – is beamed out of the fi­nal seg­ment of a fe­male’s ab­domen dur­ing evenings in June and July. 2 CAN YOU GET GOOD AND BAD GLOW-WORM YEARS? Yes. A com­bi­na­tion of cir­cum­stances (that are still not fully un­der­stood), can lead to boom years at cer­tain sites. Glowworms typ­i­cally spend two years in lar­val form, hunt­ing snails and slugs that they paral­yse with a toxic bite. Damp years, when their mol­lusc prey is plen­ti­ful, can help to boost num­bers of glow­ing adult fe­males the fol­low­ing sum­mer. Glow-worms only feed as lar­vae; the adults have no mouth­parts. For the three or so weeks that they sur­vive in adult form, all en­ergy goes into mat­ing. 3 HOW LONG DOES THE GLOW LAST? Glow-worms usu­ally spend the day hid­ing in crevices un­der logs or stones. Fe­males emerge each night and glow for a few hours, of­ten climb­ing grass stems to make them­selves more vis­i­ble, un­til they at­tract a mate. This could hap­pen im­me­di­ately or take days. Once mat­ing be­gins, a fe­male turns off her light and de­scends, tak­ing her part­ner with her. She will lay up to 100 eggs within a day or so, but dies be­fore they hatch, about a month later.

Robin Scag­ell O glowworms.org.uk

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