Love List 2020, Day 170: Little Flashes of Light

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By Brantley Ellzey

DAY 170, June 18, 2020

It happened just a couple of nights ago. We were outside on our porch and I saw it just out of the corner of my eye. A faint little flash of light. It was so dim and so short-lived that I wasn’t really sure if I had seen anything at all. Then another flash. I stared blankly into space for a time until… There it was – my first lightning bug sighting of summer 2020!

I still get a thrill out of seeing a lightning bug or firefly as some call them. Their sparking is a courtship ritual that helps guy and gal lightning bugs get acquainted. Males fly around flashing while females chill and respond with their own relaxed twinkle. Lightning bugs produce their flash thanks to “bioluminescence” or “highly efficient chemical reactions that result in the release of particles of light with little or no emission of heat.” Research also tells us that a lightning bug is a bug certainly, but a firefly isn’t a fly at all. It’s a beetle.

We’re lucky that we have one of the world’s most spectacular displays of lightning bug courtship right here in Tennessee. Every year from late-May through mid-June, one of the largest populations of synchronous fireflies in the world puts on a spectacular show at the Elkmont Viewing Area of the Great Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg. Synchronous fireflies are the only species of fireflies in America that synchronize their flashing light patterns. Imagine sitting in a dark forest as hundreds of thousands of fireflies suddenly start blinking as one! I’m attaching a link to a CBS Sunday Morning story about Elkmont that gives us some idea. 

Tennessee Fireflies: A summertime light show, from CBS’ Sunday Morning

Lightning bugs only live 21 days or so. How wonderful that they spend their few nights in the pursuit of love and how sweet of them to share this glowing quest with us.

My name is Brantley Ellzey and I was born and raised upriver from Memphis in Osceola, Arkansas. In January of this year, I began this daily blog on Facebook called Love List 2020. I hoped it would act as a happy counterpoint to the constant barrage of troubling news and turmoil that fill our modern lives. Select posts are republished here, bi-weekly and parts in between.

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