Fireflies are the butt gals and so are their male partners. During warm summer nights, both male and female fireflies blink their butts to attract their crush. Let’s not go into the details of what happens next except that, what is making their butts blink? Most of it is just chemistry that gets triggered by seasons, times of the day and the flashing signals. For the common eastern firefly that lives in North America, Photinus Pyralis, it is a dance. This is how the dance and the lightening butts actually work.
During early summer, the mating season begins and lasts for 2 weeks. Female flies wait in the bushes and grass during the night for the male flies, who will be flashing their butts to attract them.
When the male fly takes off, oxygen enters in its butt through the tubes in its abdomen called Tracheae. They run from the exoskeleton surface of the fly to the light producing cells called photocytes.
In the photocytes, the luciferase enzymes are present. These enzymes mix with the light producing luciferin molecule that is catalyzed by oxygen and energy-storing ATP. As a result, a compound, oxyluciferin is formed which has an excess of energy in its atoms that is released as light. This light is visible through the transparent segments of the fly’s butt.
The butt of the male firefly performs this process every 5.5 seconds. When a female firefly is attracted to any male firefly, it responds by flashing her signal 2 seconds after the male does so. The process that goes inside the female firefly to light up her butt is just the same as the male fireflies.
The male firefly follows the signals from the female, find her and mate. After a few days, the female firefly lays fertilized eggs on the ground that hatch two to four weeks later, producing more lighting butt flies.
Nature is pretty amazing, isn’t it?