Summertime is one of my favorite times of the year, with the backyard fires, warm moonlit nights, and fireflies all around. Some of my most memorable moments have been catching fireflies with my siblings. A few nights ago, we were enjoying a warm summer night. That’s when we saw the fireflies. Immediately, I was flashed back to my childhood, running around the yard catching fireflies. Except this time, Aikman was running, and I was trying to hold the firefly jar.
As we walked around the yard, we collected the little flying critters, and this spurred lots of discussions about fireflies.
Here’s a few facts for you:
- The back end of a firefly is called its lantern.
- The chemical that makes a firefly light up is called luciferin.
- Predators avoid eating fireflies because the luciferin tastes bad.
- Fireflies communicate with each other using their flashing lights.
- The luciferin chemical is used in medicine to detect blood clots, tuberculosis cells, and even in food safety testing. Luckily for the fireflies, luciferin is synthetically produced. This is a good thing, because firefly populations are currently on the downfall.
A firefly jar experiment:
While we were collecting the fireflies and adding them to our glass jar, we discovered that they kept migrating toward the top of the jar, where the lid was. I asked Aikman to problem solve what we could do about this. After laying the jar down and propping the jar several different ways, we finally concluded that it is easier to add more fireflies to the jar if it is upside down. This way, the fireflies crawl away from the lid, since it is at the bottom.
We also talked about nocturnal animals.
As we walked around our neighborhood catching fireflies, Aikman brought up the point that fireflies are only out at night. We had a great discussion about how fireflies are nocturnal, and that we are not nocturnal, but diurnal. We then discussed other animals that are nocturnal and diurnal.
Later this week, I’m planning on using these nocturnal vs. diurnal Montessori sorting cards.
Is it an insect?
Aikman’s next question to me was, “Are fireflies insects?”
I knew that fireflies were insects, since they have 6 legs and 3 body sections. However, what I didn’t realize is that fireflies are actually a subset of insects; they are beetles. Beetles have a hard covering for their forewings, which protects the fragile flying wings.
We talked about the 3 major sections of an insect — the head, thorax, and abdomen; and identified each on the firefly. We also talked about the lantern on the firefly, and how a special chemical reaction makes it glow.
Here’s some great questions to ask and research to find the answers:
- Why do you think it glows?
- What causes the glow?
- Where do fireflies go during the daytime?
- Why is a firefly classified as a type of beetle?
- Where do fireflies live?
- Do all fireflies have a lantern that glows? (surprisingly, the answer is no…)
I’m also printing the “parts of a beetle” page from Enchanted Learning for later this week.
I also LOVE the firefly lifecycle fan and wheel at Teach With Me. This site has some other great activities to supplement your firefly study.
Books about fireflies
Want to learn more about fireflies? Here’s some great books that we’ve discovered…
Fireflies in the Night (Let’s Read and Find Out Science series) by Judy Hawes — If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I LOVE the Let’s Read and Find Out books! They have great factual information, and this one does not disappoint with it’s sweet story of a girl who learns about the lifecycle of a firefly as well as how they are helpful to humans.
Sam and the Firefly by PD Eastman — A classic tale of a firefly and an owl who get into a bit of mischef writing words in the sky. Perfect for those emergent readers (AR level 2.0)!
Fireflies! by Julie Brinckloe — The story of a boy who catches a jar of fireflies, only to realize later that night that he must set them free. An amazingly touching story, but can be used to teach literature or science — that is, if it doesn’t bring you to tears in the process!
Night In the Country by Cynthia Rylant — A simple story for younger children to help them to understand that the night is full of sounds and animals that are active.
This post is a part of a new monthly series called Real Life Homeschooling, which shares homeschooling ideas that you can use from your normal life to use as teachable moments. Have a post that fits? Then please share it below!