Plight of the Firefly
Fireflies of the world, listen to me! It is time to flee for your lives. In
the past you were valued for the beauty and joy you brought with your flash.
Poets have written about you; children have delighted in your flash. You have
been mysterious twinkling creatures of the night, pondered and studied, but
never quite understood.
Your flash has been understood by you alone, or perhaps only by your Creator.
You have been captured, bisected, and studied by those who wish to discover your
secret. Science has determined that one of the chemicals producing the light in
your glowing tail is called "luciferase." This is where the problem
You see, fireflies, they have put out a bounty on your life! You are being
systematically captured and sold for the very enzyme that creates your magic! A
laboratory in Baltimore is buying your brothers, mates and offspring by the
gram, by the ounce, by the hundreds. Your value is no longer in your luminescent
beauty, but in your chemical composition.
Magical creatures, you want only to flash, to wave your lanterns, to dance,
to live your brief life, and lay your eggs for the next season before you
expire. But in the name of science, you are a wanted species. What is your life
worth to science? About $1.30 for a hundred of your kind, a small amount for so
Fireflies of Tennessee are especially valued. Your species, photinus pyralis,
is wanted for the quality of the enzyme. You are a slow flying species, easy
prey, easy to capture, easy to kill. Hundreds of you will die prematurely. Some
will make it to the labs of genetic research. Others will most likely die in
vain and not be harvested in sufficient quantity to sell.
Is it not enough that your habitat is being destroyed, that you must struggle
to find a birthplace for your glowworms and the natural environment to sustain
them? Now you are being deliberately and systematically captured and
slaughtered. You will be frozen alive, your tails removed and liquefied to be
made into a crystal for scientific application.
You are only a bug. That you are harmless, do nothing except seek a mate with
your twinkling flash seems not to matter. It is the advancement of science that
is important, not the preservation of nature. In the name of genetic research
all things are believed to be worthwhile.
We have seen the mysterious disappearance of fireflies in other areas where
they were once plentiful. What happened to the fireflies of Houston is a
question frequently asked. Destruction of habitat has been your major enemy.
Your bitter taste and your warning flash have protected you from most predators.
But they do not protect you from your major enemy - man.
In our haste to understand the basics of life, men willingly destroy the
creatures that give them the knowledge. Insects are merely insects, they say. To
kill a few for the pursuit of knowledge is not a bad thing. Insects and animals
are put here to serve man, not to exist of their own right. The species is
plentiful. The bugs that are sacrificed will hardly be missed in the vastness of
And so, dear firefly, I fear for you. Something is wrong, terribly wrong.
When we are wise enough to understand all the mysteries of biology, and expose
all the secrets of the universe, let us hope that the sacrifice has been
worthwhile and that there will still be left a universe worth our understanding.
An edited version of this article appeared in