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Fireflies make an appearance in Utah County

By Andrew Wittenberg | Posted - Jun. 4, 2012 at 10:29 p.m.


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SPANISH FORK — Something you don't see every day is creating a buzz, and a beautiful glow, in Spanish Fork - fireflies.

Some people call them lightning bugs. Scientists call the species lampyridae. They don't make a sound, and you wouldn't even be able to see them at night, if it wasn't for their famous and mysterious light.

It is somewhat rare to see fireflies that actually light up anywhere in Utah. But that's exactly what people are seeing in a hay pasture in Spanish Fork.

"I've been collecting insects here for 30 years and I've only seen one specimen, one time, within Utah of a firefly which can actually flash," said Michael Whiting, Professor of Biology at BYU.

Whiting has absolutely no clue how or why the fireflies ended up here of all places. They normally need a warm, humid environment to flourish and are rarely found west of Kansas.

Their light is produced through bioluminescence. It's a mixture of enzymes, oxygen and magnesium. It's effect is anything but scientific. Tranquility in a silent glow fascinates most who look at it, especially through the eyes of a child.

The reason for the light is romantic in nature. Males looking for a mate send out a pattern of light, to which females respond. In some parts of the U.S., during the first week of June, you can see fireflies synchronizing their lights and blinking in unison. But in Utah, their presence is shining light on a rare, but beautiful phenomenon.

"It's really cool. The kids are out there trying to catch them with their hands to take home and put in a bottle," said Stacey Nelson, a Spanish Fork Resident. "It is, it's different than anything we've seen here before."

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Andrew Wittenberg

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