Fireflies light up happy memories of childhood

Updated: 2014-08-04 13:32

By Cang Wei in Wuxi, Jiangsu (China Daily USA)

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Professors and students are tapping into the nostalgia and feeling of romance that fireflies arouse to increase environmental awareness during Qixi, Chinese Valentine's Day, which falls on Saturday.

In Jiangsu province, teachers and students at Yangzhou University's School of Horticulture and Plant Protection are raising the insects for people to set free on Qixi.

"One of the reasons we keep the fireflies is to raise people's environmental awareness," said Zhu Shude, a professor at the school.

Like butterflies and silkworms, fireflies go through four growth stages -egg, larva, pupa and adult - Zhu said.

"Fireflies have high standards for their habitats. If you like fireflies, you should protect the environment for them."

Mao Nian, a graduate student, admitted that "raising fireflies is not easy".

"The larva will die if the temperature is too high or low. And you need an environment that retains moisture for the fireflies to survive," Mao said.

The students have established a mini ecosystem for the fireflies, which are kept in an incubator at 25 C. It contains earth, grass and lights, and maintains the correct humidity level.

"One species, aquatic fireflies, lives in clean water and another species, the terrestrial, lives on the earth where they always hide from other creatures," Mao said.

"When the larvae come out of the eggs, they feed on mollusks and earthworms. They secrete mucus to paralyze the mollusks, and then they digest their food by secreting a kind of digestive juice."

"When they reach adulthood, they just have dew, nectar and pollen," said Mao, adding that the bugs emit a faint light at night to attract the opposite sex.

Sun Yiqing, a Yangzhou resident, said that the fireflies remind her of childhood.

"Though I'm a city girl, I always went to my aunt's house in a village during summer holidays. She helped me catch fireflies and washed some glass bottles for me to hold them."

"But I haven't seen them for years," Sun said. "They just disappeared from the village after people built cement roads. It's really thrilling to watch those little bugs fly again at night."

Visitors to Zijin Mountain, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, can expect to see swarms of fireflies for about three weeks starting in late July. The best place to view the spectacle is near Linggu Temple on the north of the mountain.

The mountain's management bureau asks visitors to not use flashlights or photoflashes to protect the reproduction of the fireflies.

Visitors to many parks, such as Suzhou's Baixiang Bay, Wuxi's Liyuan Park, Xiamen's Firefly Park and Sichuan's Tiantai Mountain can also expect to see the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of fireflies.

(China Daily USA 08/04/2014 page3)