An exploration of the little-known lives of fireflies.
More so than most insects, fireflies capture our attention—and imagination—for their bioluminescence. Whether flitting across a suburban backyard or clustering in groups of thousands in the Great Smoky Mountains, these enigmatic beetles put on serious light shows after dusk, blanketing the landscape with synchronous patterns. It seems downright romantic—and, writes Lewis (Biology/Tufts Univ.) in this wide-ranging yet intimate narrative, it is indeed these flashes that ignite firefly courtship. In prose that is plenty accessible for younger readers, the author doesn’t skimp on the details as she divulges “some of fireflies’ most deeply held secrets.” She shares stories from all over the world, blending personal anecdotes drawn from her long career as an evolutionary ecologist and biologist with a bit of scientific history as she credits some of the amateur and expert researchers who have advanced the field. She also introduces a few intriguing and rarely seen firefly outliers, such as the blue-ghost firefly, whose females are wingless, and the vampire firefly, which devours its peers. In these diverse chapters, Lewis establishes just the right balance of technical language, never alienating readers with jargon. She layers her expertise with enthusiasm that conveys her decadeslong passion for firefly research and includes over 50 color illustrations and photos. She covers much of the biochemistry that drives fireflies’ ability to produce light and cracks the code of the myriad flashing patterns they display. She even provides a handy beginners’ field guide for the more adventurous readers eager to head outside and see more for themselves. After all, she writes, “Fireflies offer us the gift of wonder, an infallible recipe for falling in love again with nature.”
A delightful book sure to charm nature lovers of all ages.