Chasing Fireflies | The Institute for Creation Research

Chasing Fireflies

Chasing and capturing fireflies is a simple joy of childhood. But for evolutionary entomologist Christopher Heckscher, that joy never left. He has been publishing papers on fireflies for almost 20 years but has never acknowledged that they have been designed by the Creator.

Fireflies are not actually flies. Rather, they are beetles (Coleoptera). Heckscher told the Smithsonian “finding [fireflies] inspires awe.”1 And rightly so, the awe these bugs inspire point our eyes to our marvelous Creator, Jesus Christ.

Since 2004, Heckscher has discovered 5 new species of fireflies, all within the genus Photuris: P. mysticalampas, P. anna, P. eliza, P. sheckscheri, and P. sellicki.1 The trained eye of a researcher allows them to distinguish species by the pattern and duration of a firefly’s flashes.1 Most fireflies use flashes to communicate and find mates. Males will flash as they fly, waiting for a female to reciprocate their flash. The light produced by fireflies is called bioluminescence.2 The organs in the lower abdomen that create the light are called lanterns. The firefly controls airflow to the lantern causing a chemical reaction, creating the familiar twinkling glow associated with summer nights. Some fireflies are even capable of emitting different wavelengths of light, such as yellow, green, and red.3

Evolutionists do not know where fireflies came from. They just appear, fully formed in the rock record, with evolutionists claiming they are nearly 100 million years old and originate from an unknown common ancestor.4 In contrast, creation scientists realize these fossils are from the global Flood that occurred about 4,500 years ago. Fossil fireflies were trapped in the advancing waves and sediment.

Fireflies are found in a wide range of habitats but thrive in damp or humid areas in North America. They may seem like unimportant little bugs, but they “contribute to food-web stability, playing important roles as both predators and prey.”3 Many fireflies in the larval stage are voracious carnivores, consuming snails and slugs. This carnivorous activity began after the Fall as all animals were created to only eat plants in the original creation (Gen. 1:30), whereas adult fireflies continue to feed on plant material, like pollen, making fireflies a friend to farmers and backyard gardeners alike.3

Scientists estimate there to be a minimum of 2,000 different species of fireflies worldwide (although many are likely the same Biblical “kind”). All fireflies have a glowing larval state, but not all species glow in their adult form. These species are referred to as dark fireflies. Oliver Keller, a biologist with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates 25%-40% of firefly species to be dark fireflies. Adult dark fireflies communicate and find mates using pheromones instead of lanterns.1

Research over the last fifty years indicates these beautiful light-producing insects are dwindling in number.3 Using the extinction risk criteria from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission Firefly Specialist Group, it was concluded that 18 species are threatened.1 However, “the major takeaway from the study was that scientists know surprisingly little about the 170 or so named firefly species in the U.S. and Canada.”1

Scientists believe habitat loss, along with light pollution and pesticides, are the primary cause for the drop in population numbers.3

Writing in On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin said that he had no evolutionary explanation for bioluminescence.5 Over 160 years later, evolutionists are no closer to identifying an ancestor for fireflies, nor do they have an evolutionary explanation for bioluminescence. Creationists, meanwhile, can point to Flood rocks with fossils that are 100% firefly from the moment they appear, not derived from a claimed evolutionary ancestor, corroborating the biblical account of the Flood in Genesis. During the Creation Week, Jesus created “everything that creepeth upon the earth,”6 including fireflies. Fireflies not only remind us of the glorious creativity of our Creator, but they remind us that we are supposed to look after and take care of His creation, including insects like the firefly.

References

  1. Bodin, M. The Illuminating Science Behind FirefliesSmithsonian, June 1, 2023.
  2. Thomas, B. 2013. The Unpredictable Pattern of Bioluminescence. Acts & Facts. 42 (4): 17.
  3. Fallon, C. et al. 2019. Conserving the Jewels of the Night: Guidelines for Protecting Fireflies in the United States and Canada. Portland, OR: Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
  4. Noguchi, Takuro. A First for Japan, an Intact Fossil of a Firefly from 3.5 Million Years Ago. The Asahi Shimbun. Posted on asahi.com February 16, 2021, accessed June 21, 2023.
  5. Darwin, C. On the Origin of Species. London: J. Murray, 1859. Pdf.
  6. Genesis 1:25.
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