Sunday, July 28, 2013

Phenology for 7/28/13: Finally, Sunshine

Whew, finally...three days in a row with actual sunshine, overnight temperatures dipping briefly below 60 degrees (Fahrenheit), and humidity below 75%. It felt great. It felt so great I couldn't force myself to leave the Cat Sanctuary and come to the computer center until this afternoon.

Everyone seems to be enjoying this break in the hot, humid weather. One retired friend felt so good he actually went back to work on Friday. Luckily for him, since it's a family business, his children were as glad to see him on the job as the customers were.

On Friday night we had another heavy rain, but on Saturday night I stayed out long enough to watch the fireflies. I think I've seen more fireflies this year than I saw in the past six years together. I'd never even noticed before that we have two distinct species. Both are common, but because they're not normally common enough that I've noticed both at one time, I've never paid attention to how different they are.

I started to type a quick off-the-cuff description of how different the fireflies are, then thought, "Hey, I'm on the Internet. Why don't I look for fresh fun facts about'em?" Here's a very quick and basic summary:

http://www.firefly.org/types-of-fireflies.html

It seems that what I've noticed this summer are the differences between two genera. Based on this description, it seems that our dominant species, the larger beetles who blink their lights on and off quickly while flying high above the ground in June, would be Photuris, and the less numerous species, who stay close to the ground and flash their lights in a much slower pattern, often in July and August, would be Photinus. While humans just see their cute little lights blinking in the night and think, "How cute, they're showing off to impress their mates," scientists also say these fireflies have other things to say to one another. Although they look like larger and smaller specimens of the same sort of thing, they are two distinct species, they don't like each other very much, and occasionally they eat each other.

If you scroll down the Firefly.org page you'll see a picture of Phausis reticulata. These are also common at the Cat Sanctuary from August through October. I never heard anyone call them "blue ghosts" before--as this computer screen clearly shows, they're not blue. Their local name is "glowworms." The wingless females don't really look like worms but do look more like grubs than like most beetles.