We had just spent several hours in Campbell Valley Regional Park, getting photos of every plant, bird, insect, fungus, mammal, or any form of life we could spy.
It was early June, and I was taking part in the second annual Langley Watersheds bioblitz, with my son and daughter-in-law helping me to spot the species.
Vincent and I were ready to call it quits, and drive home, when Ruthanne called my name.
She was staring down at the parking lot, asking “what are those?”
When I beheld the pair of beetles she was staring at it took me back to my childhood.
I was 12 years old when my family spent a year in Princeton, New Jersey.
It was a great opportunity for a budding insect enthusiast like me to find some different insects than I was familiar with in Ontario, including fireflies.
At night I would go out to a nearby field, which was aglow with swarming fireflies, and I would catch some and keep them in a jar in my room – the coolest night light ever!
However, I had never heard of fireflies showing up around here before.
It turns out that these particular beetles, although in the firefly group, do not actually light up at night… at least not the adults that we were seeing in the parking lot.
Tentatively I have identified this as the California glowworm, Ellychnia californica – it is clearly one of the Ellychnia species.
Apparently the larvae do glow and unlike the adults are nocturnal.
If you are a snail – watch out. Apparently these glowworms lock their mandibles on unsuspecting snails and suck the life out of them.
Anyway, this year’s bioblitz was another huge success.
During the two weeks, 195 observers in Langley (up from 146 observers in 2020) recorded 3,335 observations, identifying 675 species. [I personally went crazy on the bioblitz again this year, finding more than 300 species, including the ‘fireflies’ (California glowworms) that are the stars of this column.]
As well as seeing firefly beetles, that day my team saw many remarkable organisms – squirrels, chipmunks, beautiful black-headed grosbeaks (despite their name, and as you can see she was very cooperative with the photographer), red-breasted nuthatches, damselflies, dragonflies, and honeysuckles to name a few.
All aglow with the breath of life.
See more on the iNaturalist project page.
– David Clements PhD, is a professor of biology and environmental studies at Trinity Western University