Summer is almost upon us and June is here at last! It’s a great month for spotting wildlife – meadows are thriving, woodlands are flourishing and gardens are alive with butterflies and flowers. And, if you are really lucky, June is a good month to spot glow-worms.
Glow-worms can be found in most parts of the UK. They live in hedgerows and roadside verges mostly but are also seen in gardens and woodland. The best time to spot them is, as you might have guessed, in the evening.
Of course, not every light you will be a glow-worm. Some fungi, centipedes and caterpillars also emit light. To be sure that what you can see is a glow-worm you need to see it up close.
Despite their name, glow-worms are in fact beetles with 2cm long, segmented bodies. Only the adult females glow noticeably. They do this to attract a mate. Once she has laid her eggs her light goes out and she dies. In fact, adult glow-worms live for only 2 weeks and barely eat, though the larvae are hunters and feed on slugs and snails.
So, how do glow-worms glow? Well, it’s a form of bioluminescence. Certain chemicals in the glow-worm’s body react to produce a greenish/yellow light. It’s a similar reaction to that in glow sticks used by the military and by ‘ravers’.
But, sadly, glow-worms are threatened by our activities. They need wild plants (otherwise known as ‘weeds’) in order to thrive. These are wantonly destroyed whenever we ‘improve’ a natural area. Pesticides and herbicides also damage glow-worm populations as they destroy, not only their habitat, but also their source of food.
In addition to all this, light pollution is also a threat to the glow-worm. In order to breed, males are attracted to sources of light. In this age of street and security lighting the glow from a female glow-worm is often overpowered and so no males will notice her. This means that she will have no children and the number of glow-worms will diminish.
Here at Education Quizzes we try to find ways to help conserve nature, so is there anything we can do for the glow-worm? Well, yes. One is to have a log pile and a ‘wild’ area in your garden. The log pile will encourage slugs and snails, the prey of the glow-worm, and it will also give the larvae shade to stop them from drying out. The wild area will support the adults. You can also remove or turn off any outside lighting, especially in the mating period which lasts from June-July. Not only will that help the glow-worms to breed, it will also increase your chances of spotting them!
Do you like glow-worms? Not many of us like creepy crawlies of any kind, but we love insects here at Education Quizzes. We have quizzes devoted to insects, spiders and other invertebrates in our Nature section, where you’ll find trivia on many different bugs – from moths to millipedes! A must for all invertebrate aficionados! If you are one of those, then may I recommend the Buglife website? It’s a mine of information about creepy crawlies of every description, plus what we can do to help them. Well worth a look.