Recording firefly observation is important, because it helps:
- map the distribution of Italian fireflies;
- get data on their habitat;
- identify areas of particular interest for firefly conservation;
- monitor firefly abundance variation over time.
The following instructions can help a first fireflies identification on the spot.
First of all it is important to record the place where the firefly was recorded. Mobile phones are usually provided with a control able to save the geographic coordinates of a place; that is the most precise information that an observer can record and report. You can also enable the geotagging feature of your mobile phone and geographic information will be embedded directly in the metadata of the image file.
- Name of the observer;
- Altitude (can be recorded by smartphone with the same tools used to save GPS coordinates);
- Geographic coordinates (may be already embedded in the photo);
- Date and time of the record;
- Habitat description (wood, hedgerow, meadow);
- Did you take a photo?
- Based on following identification notes, which species did you observe?
Firefly identification: larvae
It is more difficult to observe firefly larvae than adults. At the larval stage fireflies usually move on soil or through leaf litter. They rarely come out: this is the case, for example, of Lampyris larvae that can be seen at night when the soil is wet and relative humidity is high. Here some photos of larvae belonging to firefly genera recorded in Italy.
Firefly identification: adults
Firefly females living in Italy are wingless (Lampyris, Nyctophila, Phosphaenus) or unable to fly (Luciola). They can be observed either on the ground or in upper positions (i.e. on top of herbs) while they glow to attract males. Phosphaenus hemipterus adult females are particularly difficult to observe, since they spend most of their life hidden in a crevice, coming out only at twilight or on overcast days (Tyler, 2002).
Adult males can be classified according to their flight mode as follows:
- Adult males easily detectable during flight thanks to their light emission: Luciola lusitanica, Luciola italica and Lamprohiza splendidula;
- Adult males not easily detectable during flight: Nictophyla, Lampyris or unable to fly (Phosphaenus).
Adult males easily detectable during flight. Luciola lusitanica, Luciola italica adult males can actively fly as far as 30/40 meters; while flying they emit a yellow-green blinking light. Lamprohiza splendidula males are also easily detectable, but their flight behavior differs from the one of Luciola, because. L. splendidula do short flights around females while emitting a green light.
Adult males not easily detectable during flight. Nyctophila and Lampyris males are not detectable during flight, because their light is weak, as it comes from a limited portion of the abdomen. It is possible to find both males and females of those genera during copulation, usually on the ground. Finally, Phosphaenus hemipterus are quite small: the female is rarely longer than 10 mm and the male just 6-8 mm. They are usually active in the afternoon (De Cock, 2004). Males are unable to fly and can be often seen in clusters, converging to a hidden female (Tyler, 2002).