I used to believe that fireflies were creatures of people’s imaginations. They were right there in the category of unicorns and fairies. Creatures made for books and movies. Of course, that was while living in Utah where fireflies can’t be found and pre-internet where everything can be found.
After I moved to Western New York for my Mormon mission, I was told by the locals that fireflies were pretty common in New York. “Sure,” I thought. Yeah, and Rocky is based off a real boxer.
I didn’t see any fireflies at any point while living in New York. I watched closely in places where they were supposedly seen frequently, but I never caught a glimpse of one. Chalk those rumors up to being nothing more than another myth told by the locals.
When I moved to Indiana, I heard the same thing. Fireflies apparently lit up the evening sky just after the sunset. Pffft, I thought. I fell for that rumor once before and I wasn’t going to fall for it again. Then one evening, while building a backyard patio, something that looked like a spark flew right at my face. I shielded my eyes and looked around to make sure the barbeque wasn’t on fire. Then I saw that flicker of light again as it floated up and down about three feet off the grass.
“No way!” I thought. It couldn’t be a firefly; those things are figments of people’s imaginations. Then I noticed a second spark and then a third, and then I realized that the field behind our apartment had thousands of little sparks floating over the grass.
Ever since that day, my family has been pretty fascinated with fireflies. Where we live now, our backyard is surrounded by trees on one side and a giant grass field on the other. So we usually get quite the firefly show each evening, beginning sometime around May. It doesn’t end until late in the summer season.
One evening we went to the backyard so that Casey could take pictures of the fireflies. Addie and I were using the little plastic insect bottle that she had gotten from her grandma. I caught the fireflies for her and would hand the bottle over to her so that she could examine each one. She loved watching the fireflies glow in that little jar. She would look at them for a minute or so and then let them fly off as if nothing had ever happened.
I caught another firefly that had been sitting on the grass, or at least I thought it had been sitting on the grass. I handed the firefly to Addie and she said, “Dad, this firefly is dripping fire.” Sure enough, little drops of fire were dripping out of that firefly. No other firefly had ever done that. I started to wonder if this particular firefly happened to be going to the bathroom.
Then Addie screamed at the top of her lungs and threw the plastic bottle. She ran to the back door as quickly as she could. I asked her what the problem was. She started crying and said, “You caught a spider.”
I shined my flashlight into the bottle. Sure enough, there was a giant wolf spider sitting at the bottom. I immediately threw the plastic bottle on the ground and started doing the shiver and run dance. Few things scare me more than spiders.
Apparently, that firefly wasn’t sitting on the ground when I caught it. It was in the middle of being eaten alive by the wolf spider. The dripping fire was the firefly’s glowing blood as it dripped from its little insect body.
Addie hasn’t wanted to catch fireflies since, and she has never forgiven me for catching a spider and handing it to her.
Photo Credit: Flickr
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