This is Jeremy Smith's blog about life in Tennessee, local science and other topics of interest. Is not endorsed by and does not, of course, represent the opinion of UT, ORNL or any other official entity.
Monday, June 22, 2015
My favorite time of the year in East Tennessee is June, around dusk, when the male Photinus pyralis fireflies execute their J-shaped flight motifs, flashing on the upswing. Females, near the ground, respond a couple of seconds later. [Marvellous chemistry that, as somehow the breaking of a chemical bond is transformed into an electronically excited state]. But there is much intrigue, back-stabbing and derring-do going on among the fireflies in my back yard. Photinus beware! The evil femme fatale, Photuris, lurks! The female of this species mimics the flashes of Photinus females, attracting the eager male Photinus. To their doom! Once a male is close enough, the stronger Photuris female pounces on him and devours him.
She gets a good meal containing chemicals that protect her from Phidippus jumping spiders. Ok, then, say the male Photinus : we'll approach and land, but cautiously, quite a way away, and we'll very slowly crawl towards her, signaling. The problem with that, though, is that it gives time for one of the other Photinus males to get to her first. Sissies! Throw yourselves at her, guys! You may get eaten but it'll all be over quickly and you only live for two weeks, anyway.