Bioluminescence and Firefly Dancers (by Len Winneroski)

UnknownYou are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. – Matthew 5:14

Aren’t fireflies amazing?   There seems to be an unwritten law that fireflies need to be chased.  Watching children point, jump, twirl and laugh as they pursue these flying miracles brings warmth to even the coldest heart.   The moonlight “firefly dance” is so contagious that I have been moved to join my children in this dance on more than one occasion.

The funny thing is that in times past when I actually caught one of these little miracles for my small children, they were afraid to hold it.  Isn’t that just like life?  How many times have I exhausted myself chasing something, and then when I actually caught it, fear entered the picture and I did’t know what to do next.

There also seems to be an unwritten rule that fireflies do not exist for bottles, they were meant to soar.  I remember asking my kids once if they wanted to save some of the fireflies in a jar.  Almost in unison they replied, “No daddy, the fireflies wouldn’t be happy in a jar.  They need to fly and make light.”

So how do fireflies make light?  Firefly abdomens contain cells that make an enzyme called luciferase which catalyzes a chemical reaction that produces light.   Luciferase obtains energy from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to catalyze the reaction of luciferin and oxygen (O2) to produce oxyluciferin and light (see image).  Fireflies obtain the oxygen for this reaction from a tube in their abdomen called an abdominal trachea. Fireflies are thought to use their light to attract mates and to warn predators that they taste really bad (I hope that these interesting facts will equip you the next time that a child, or a friend asks you to explain how God engineered these wonderful insects).

As I was thinking about these amazing facts, the thought occurred to me that even though God did not equip our abdomens with luciferase, He did design us to make light.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.   Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NIV)  Jesus also said that our faith should be visible.  He said, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.   Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:15-16, NIV)

So how full of light are we?  Do we glow in the moonlight like God’s fireflies?   Let’s ask God to make us bioluminescent in a dark world that desperately needs light, love and liberty from sin. The world needs more “firefly dancers” for Christ.

4 thoughts on “Bioluminescence and Firefly Dancers (by Len Winneroski)

  1. Thank you for letting your light shine. Are you aware of the show the fireflies put on Mid-June in Gatlinburg every year? Here is some info.

    God certainly does love us.

    If you want to see a true “wonder of nature”, a beauty that can only be seen in two known places in the whole world, then you need to see these fireflies. They are a rare species of firefly that seem to coordinate their blinking into a little Smoky Mountain show (all they need is some music!) around mid-June (the 7th through the 14th) each year. There’s only one other place in the world, Southeast Asia, in which this phenomenon can be seen. This species of fireflies has an internal “sensor” that let’s them know when a nearby firefly has lit, in which they respond with their own light as quickly as possible. It may take a minute for them to get in sync, but all of a sudden they start performing together with flashes that last as long as six seconds. This, in turn, presents an amazing wave of blinking lights that is truly astonishing.

    • FYI
      On June 24th in Sandy Springs, Georgia (30328) this firefly phenomenon occurred in my yard. It was right after a huge rainfall around 9:00 p.m. I went out to survey the water damage in my forest-like yard and to my surprise I watched fireflies lighting up non-stop. It seemed like an electronic show that lasted for an hour. Then it was over and has not reoccurred since. So it does happen elsewhere.

  2. Spot(light) on, Len! It is so good to read and ponder these simple facts of science and relate them to our relationships, especially to our Lord. What an excellent question arises: Where does the lucefirin come from for the luceferase to act on? What did this creature do (place tongue in cheek here) before it had luciferin? It was obviously successful in gaining mates and in protecting itself from predators, else there would be no next generation to pass anything on to. Obviously, these things need to be in place, and work concurrently, or it all falls apart! Thanks friend!

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