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Firefly Ecosystem Services

Fireflies

Fireflies are beneficial insects that you want around! The larvae of most species are specialised predators that feed on soft-bodied invertebrates like snails, slugs, and mites. They hunt by spitting out digestive fluids directly onto their prey, turning them into liquid before sucking on the tasty smoothie (YUM!). Having them in your garden helps control populations of the nasty pests that are devouring your vegetable patch.

Many firefly adults feed on plant pollen and nectar, making them effective pollinators! This means that while they travel from flower to flower looking for sweet treats, they help move pollen from plant to plant, allowing them to be fertilised and reproduce. Having a healthy firefly population in any ecosystem can only do good in helping it flourish – not to mention the spectacular light show they put on during warm summer nights!

Fireflies are extremely sensitive to environmental conditions, and can only thrive in healthy habitats where water quality is good. This makes the insect a good environmental indicator, which is how scientists can assess ecosystem health. If fireflies are present in an area, this means that the water is free from toxic chemicals, the landscape is diverse enough to support different life stages of fireflies, and there is minimal light pollution to disrupt the faint light signals that the insects produce.

Luciferin, the chemical used by fireflies to produce bioluminescence, also has major applications in biomedical research, particularly for diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and various heart diseases. Luciferin can be incorporated into microscopic bacteria. By allowing these bacteria to interact with diseased tissue, the glow allows researchers to track and produce images of cellular activity in a non-invasive way.

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