This is an absolutely tremendous book.
Author Lynn Frierson Faust clearly has a passion for the subject matter and has done such a fantastic job of researching and cataloging the insects we know as fireflies, glow-worms, and lightning bugs. The largest portion of the book (Chapter 8) is an identification field guide.
I have to admit that most of the fireflies still look the same to me, but I look forward to capturing a couple this coming summer and checking them against the book to see what genus the luminescent insect is. There is a size chart, there is a detailed description of the insect and its habitat, there are unbelievable photos of the insect at various stages of its life, and there is a glow/flash chart detailing the number and type of flashes (and glow color) the specific fly typically displays.
I own a number of different sorts of field guides, from birds to trees to dragonflies to animal scat, and this book really has the most complete tools for identification that I’ve ever seen.
The portion of the book that is not directly related to identification is equally packed with information regarding these unique insects. My favorite section is the Frequently Asked Questions in which I learned how fireflies flash … sort of. According to the book (and I’m simplifying) its complex chemistry and the experts are still trying to understand the specifics.
I also learned that the colors of the fireflies are not all the same – though it’s possible that this has as much to do with the viewer as it does with the flies themselves. The researcher noted that five people watching the same display saw five slightly different color shades.
One interesting aspect in the FAQ portion was the notation that “Adult fireflies do not need to eat. They are mating machines. They exist only to find a mate and lay as many fertile eggs as possible.” But one paragraph later is the notation that the researchers found “at least nine different species of fireflies … appearing to consume nectar from toxic common milkweed blooms.” Perhaps they don’t need to eat, but do they consume to make themselves poisonous for protection (like the Monarch butterfly)?
Every summer I sit on my back deck and watch the fireflies in my yard, which is one of the reasons I was so interested in reading this book. I live very much in the Driftless Area mentioned for the “Slow Blues” genus so you can be sure I’ll be checking ‘my’ fireflies this summer to see if they are this particular kind.
This is a remarkable book. I had hoped to give it out as a Christmas present this past year to family members who have a strong interest in nature and identification field guides but it wasn’t yet released. I look forward to getting the book as a gift for family members this year.
Looking for a good book? Fireflies, Glow-Worms, and Lightning Bugs by Lynn Frierson Faust is a thorough, well-researched, tremendously illustrated (with photos) guide to one of the few insects that we still enjoy seeing and even often encourage people to catch and hold.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Fireflies, Glow-Worms, and Lightning Bugs: Identification and Natural History of the Fireflies of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada
author: Lynn Frierson Faust
publisher: University of Georgia Press
paperback, 355 pages