Drawn to Quebec: Fireflies light up the night

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Photo: Illustration © Bethann Garramon Merkle, 2015

Female fireflies of the genus Photuris are known as femme fatales because they lure Photinus males by mimicking the flash response of Photinus females for one simple reason. Photuris cannot produce the defensive toxin that protects most other fireflies from predators; instead, they gain it by eating Photinus males.

"Through the whole land did shew themselves an infinite swarme of fierie wormes flying in the ayre, whose bodies make such a shew and light, as if every twigge or tree had been a burning candle.” Sir Francis Drake recorded this description of fireflies in 1577, but he could have been writing this summer.

What is a firefly?