top of page

Common Eastern Firefly

Common Name: Common Eastern Firefly.

Scientific Name: Photinus Pyralis.

What to look for?  At dusk, a flying, flashing glow! The Common Eastern Firefly has a long, flattened body. It has two pairs of wings. The first pair - the elytra - is blackish-brown with narrow yellow side margins. The elytra form a cover over the second pair, which males use for flying. Females usually have short wings and do not fly. The head of the Common Eastern Firefly has a rounded, orange-red cover outlined in yellow and with a black spot. Like all insects, it has a hard exoskeleton, six jointed legs, two antennae, compound eyes, and a body divided into three parts head, thorax, and abdomen. The last segment of the abdomen is the section that lights up, flashing bright yellow-green.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Common Eastern Firefly can be seen on warm summer evenings nearly everywhere around Carillon Stonegate Pond and our yards.

How big are they? The Common Eastern Firefly averages approximately one-half of one inch in length.

What are their flight patterns? Only the male Common Eastern Firefly flies; females usually have short wings and do not fly.

How else do they behave? They glow! Fireflies have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. Inside special cells, the Common Eastern Firefly takes in oxygen and combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light. Adult fireflies use their glow to both attract mates and ward off predators. They also contain a poisonous steroid that fends off predators.

What’s for dinner? They are carnivores! The Common Eastern Firefly – both as adult and larvae - feed on other insects, earthworms, and snails.

Where do they take up residence? The Common Eastern Firefly lives throughout North America, east of the Rockies. Fireflies are found on every continent except Antarctica.  The habitat of an adult Common Eastern Firefly ranges from prairies and meadows to along woodland edges. Larvae can be found in moist places such as on the ground or under bark.

When and where do they breed and nest? Common Eastern Fireflies use specific flashing signals to find a female to mate. Females wait on the ground and then answer with their own specific signal. This mating process occurs in summer and early fall. The female generally lays about 100 or more eggs in damp soil. These eggs will hatch after four weeks. The larval stage is long with these flightless larvae living one to two years. And larvae may even be seen glowing on damp ground. After passing through the larval stage, the developing firefly moves into chambers in the moist soil and pupates. During this stage, it undergoes metamorphosis and emerges from the pupa as an adult.

Where do they migrate? The Common Eastern Firefly does not migrate.

Do they make any interesting sounds? No - not even when they turn their lights on or off!

Interesting Facts About the Common Eastern Firefly:

  • The Common Eastern Firefly is not a fly, but a type of beetle.

  • Fireflies use specific flashing signals to find a mate.

  • The light producing organs are called lantern organs and occurs when the two chemicals found in its tail - luciferase and luciferin - react with oxygen.

  • The Common Eastern Firefly is also called the Big Dipper Firefly.

  • There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies.

For more information on the Common Eastern Firefly and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web, Insect Identification for the Casual Observer, Iowa State University’s Bug Guide, Wichita State University’s Ninnescah Life, and National Geographic

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

bottom of page