Joe the Bug Hunter: Fireflies in the Fog

A fog had rolled in, blanketing the homestead. Joe and his mom were making sugar cookies. Sugar cookie bugs to be exact. All kinds of bugs, lady bugs, grasshoppers, caterpillars.

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“Hornworms! Mom, let’s make some hornworms!”

Joe’s mom smiled and started to turn a caterpillar into a hornworm.

They finished decorating and cleaning up. Joe walked to the sliding glass doors to check out the fog. He could barely make the play set out in the fluffy thick cloud.

Suddenly, he saw a quick yellow flash of light. He shook his head thinking that it must be his imagination, but then he saw another and another…and another.

“Mom,” he whispered, as if the strange thing might hear him, “There’s something out in the fog.”

Joe’s mom walked over to the door and stood behind him. She too saw the flickering lights.

“Fireflies. It’s strange to see them this late in the season. Must be all the rain we’ve had lately.”

“Fireflies,” said Joe. “I’ve never seen one.”

“Hmmm. Maybe you could do some research,” said his mom.

Excited, Joe sat and pulled out the Kindle his awesome mom and dad had got him for research. He pulled up the bug app they had installed and searched for “fireflies”.

“Mom, they have other names. Lightning bugs, glow fly, moon bug…they’re called blinkies in Jamaica.”

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They laid their eggs on or in the ground and the eggs hatched three to four weeks later with the baby “glowworms” feeding until the end of the summer. The larvae are commonly called glowworms which could be confused with the glowworm beetle.

“I wonder…” thought Joe, clicking on link to “Phengodidae” which was the scientific name for glowworms. Joe imagined the glowworm toy in Jacob’s room and chuckled.

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Joe had learned a long time ago that scientific names were in Latin so that organisms could be put in groups with common traits, or features. Supposedly, people could study them more quickly and it made it easier to make connections between different species.

This made sense, sort of, since the names everyone else used could be confusing. Like a whale shark wasn’t really a whale, or even related to whales, or even a mammal. It was a fish.

“Bingo!” Joe exclaimed.

Unlike the firefly, the glowworm beetles were hunters who fed on millipedes and other bugs like caterpillars. Joe glanced at the caterpillar cookies and frowned. Not good, he thought. Most caterpillars were great for the garden.

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Reading on he became less sure which type of fire bug it was. Glowworm beetles, the girls in particular, could have two heads. One that glowed red, but may or may not fly around. Joe guessed they had to stay on the ground if they were hunting millipedes and caterpillars.

Back to the fireflies. Ooh, some of them ate slugs. That could be helpful. Joe and his mom both thought slugs were gross. Cool! Some of them shoot their digestive fluids at their prey, like a squirt gun. But some of them fed on pollen and nectar too.

Jumping up, Joe grabbed his bug gun, attached the laser light and started to head outside.

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“Not so fast,” said his mom. “Where are you going?”

“Mom, I need to find out if this is a firefly or a glowworm.”

“Joe, I don’t want you going out into this fog. It’s too thick and it’s getting dark. Plus, I don’t want you to catch a cold.”

“But Mom–“.

“No buts,” she interrupted. “Besides, it’s getting late and we still need to brush your teeth, read and pray before bedtime.”

Joe smiled. Mom had played the trump card. She knew he couldn’t resist reading time; he loved books.

“Ok, I guess I can wait until tomorrow to catch one and study it.”

He headed to the bathroom to start the bedtime routine.

As he brushed his teeth he smiled. He thought that maybe he could convince his mom to read 6 books instead of the usual five. After all, she loved books as much as he did.

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