Bats are fascinating creatures that come out at night to feed on a variety of insects. Often seen swooping through the sky, these nocturnal mammals rely on their outstanding echolocation skills to catch and eat their prey.
One insect that has left many curious to know if it’s part of bats’ diet is the firefly. These bioluminescent insects light up the night with their enchanting glow, creating a mesmerizing spectacle for onlookers. As bats play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem, understanding their feeding habits and preferences helps us appreciate their significance in the natural world.
Bats and Fireflies
General Characteristics of Bats
- Bats are the only flying mammals
- Bats primarily feed on insects, including moths, beetles, and mosquitoes
- Over 1,100 known species of bats
- Most bats are nocturnal and use echolocation to locate prey
Bats play a significant role in controlling insect populations. For example, a single little brown bat can eat 4 to 8 grams of insects each night.
General Characteristics of Fireflies
- Fireflies are bioluminescent beetles
- They produce light through a chemical reaction in their abdomen
- Males and females communicate using light signals
- Approximately 2,000 known species of fireflies
Fireflies are not only fascinating but also useful. They play a crucial role in natural pest control by preying on slugs, snails, and other pests.
Comparison Table: Bats vs. Fireflies
|Primary Diet||Insects||Snails, slugs, insect larvae|
|Number of Species||Over 1,100||Around 2,000|
|Unique Abilities||Flight, echolocation||Bioluminescence, light communication|
In conclusion, both bats and fireflies are essential to maintaining balanced ecosystems. While bats are voracious insect predators, fireflies also contribute to natural pest control. Learning more about these fascinating creatures will undoubtedly increase our appreciation for their roles in the environment.
What Bats Typically Eat
Bats have a diverse diet, but most species eat insects found in the night sky. For example, a little brown bat can consume 4 to 8 grams of insects each night. Other bats enjoy:
- Fruit: Some bats are frugivores, meaning they eat fruits like figs, mangoes, dates, and bananas.
- Small animals: Certain species of bats eat birds, fish, frogs, lizards, or even other bats.
What Fireflies Typically Eat
As for fireflies, they eat mainly:
- Insects: Including snails, slugs, aphids, and mosquito larvae.
- Nectar and pollen: As an occasional part of their diet.
However, interactions between bats and fireflies do occur. Bats are attracted to insects that emit light, such as fireflies. Despite this attraction, bats may not consume fireflies as frequently as other insects, possibly due to a chemical in the fireflies called lucibufagins that can make them unpalatable or poisonous to some predators.
Here is a comparison table detailing the dietary habits of the two species:
|Species||Primary Diet||Secondary Diet|
|Bats||Insects||Fruits, small animals|
|Fireflies||Insects||Nectar and pollen|
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Firefly, NOT Glowworm from Colorado
Can you identify this?
I found this in forest litter in foothills of Colorado at about 8000 ft. elevation last fall. I saw several of them glowing green in the dark and was able to find a couple and photograph them. I am attaching several photo’s and from looking at your site it may be a firefly, but I have lived here for 45 years and have never seen these before. I appreciate any information you can provide as to what this is. I can’t believe I found this web site and still have the photo! Thanks!
We wrote to Eric Eaton to see if he knew a species name for your Glowworm. We wrote back saying he would check with another expert. Here is Eric’s query followed by the expert’s thoughts: “Q Dear Art: I did not know there was anything like this in Colorado! Any ideas? A John Wagener Green revised Microphotus in 1959 (Coleopterists Bulletin 13: 80-96). The only species he lists from Colorado is Microphotus pecosensis Fall. Fall described this species in 1912 from specimens collected in June and July in New Mexico. Green also recorded this species from Arizona, California, Texas, Utah, and Chihuahua. His Colorado records include Royal Gorge, Junction Creek, San Luis Valley, and Stollsheimer. He notes that they were all females collected in June and July and that, although their identities are not certain, they are probably pecosensis. The pink females are said to closely resemble the more common CA species, M. angustus LeConte and have 6-segmented antennae, 4-segmented tarsi. The CO specimens all have 3-segmented “
Letter 2 – Firefly Larvae in Oregon
Subject: Unknown Glowworm
Location: Forest near Newport, Oregon
January 26, 2017 11:47 pm
This bug has bothered me for years. As a kid, I discovered these tiny bugs in the topsoil of a forest a few miles out of Newport, Oregon, near a cabin where my family stays occasionally. The bug is remarkable in that the circumstances to discover it were extraordinary.
Me and my brother and some of our friends created a game we called ‘real-life Slenderman’ where we would go out in the woods at night and try to collect notebook pages, like in the video game ‘Slender’, all while being pursued by my brother wearing a mask. Good for some thrills, certainly. The game necessitates spending a good amount of time alone in the woods in pitch darkness. Because of this, we quickly discovered minuscule lights in the soil beneath our feet, impossible to see except in total darkness. We found tiny segmented bugs with two faintly glowing ‘eyespots’ on their backs, which we observed in detail upon collecting some and bringing them into the house. They are less than a quarter inch long, dark brown, and segmented. I don’t remember if it was the front two spots or the back two that glowed, but it was two spots on each one. They were quite mobile when brought into the house, and moved in centipede-like fashion across a plate.
Since then, I have gone to the same spot many times to try and find more ‘glowworms’, but have not been able to find any. I did a thorough internet search on any ‘glowworms’ native to the Pacific Northwest, but found nothing remotely resembling this find. Perhaps it is not known as a ‘glowworm’ since the glowing is extremely faint.
I would love to have this resolved, and if nothing else, the story of how it was discovered is worth appreciating.
We actually believe these are Firefly Larvae from the family Lampyridae and not Glowworms in the family Phengodidae, but we are really reluctant to provide a more specific identification. Pterotus obscuripennis is an Oregon species pictured on BugGuide, but it looks very different from your larvae.
Letter 3 – Mystery Solved: Not Firefly but Checkered Beetle
Firefly, I think, in Florida
July 10, 2010
Hello again you helpful people! I believe you’d recently asked for photos of fireflies, and here’s one I took last month (had misfiled it and only just found it). When I was trying to ID it, I couldn’t find one that had all the same features. The antennae clearly have some feathering like pterotus, but all the images I found of those had solid red thoraxes. It looks a lot like lucidota, but the images of those I found have plain antennae and no red spot in the middle of the thorax, and no edge color to the wing cases (is that the right term?). What do you think? [Much thanks for the time and effort you expend on this marvelous website!]
While it sure does look like a Firefly, we are not totally convinced it might not be something else, like a Soldier Beetle. We are going to post your image and contact Eric Eaton to see if he has an opinion on the identity of your beetle.
Eric Eaton Responds:
July 12, 2010
You are correct, the insect is *not* a firefly. It is a “checkered beetle,” Chariessa pilosa, and a firefly MIMIC. Many beetles (and even other insects) masquerade as fireflies because fireflies are poisonous to many predators if they are eaten.
Letter 4 – Firefly: Pterotus obscuripennis
Subject: Cool Beetle
Geographic location of the bug: Paradise Mountain, Valley Center, California
Time: 11:08 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I’m thinking this is a male Glow Worm Beetle that is…
How you want your letter signed: Bomberojohn79
The Western Glowworm males pictured on BugGuide have orange legs. We actually believe this is a Firefly, Pterotus obscuripennis, based on this BugGuide image, and according to BugGuide: “comes to lights in spring/early summer.”
Thank you so much for setting me straight.
Letter 5 – Firefly from Vietnam
Subject: Glowing Insect
June 24, 2014 11:15 am
A friend of mine in Vietnam posted a video today. It contains a clip of an weird bug with a glowing bum. The video was taken at Cát Tiên national park (in Vietnam). He and I have both tried researching it with no success. It seems to have beetle like legs up front, but tiny catterpillar like legs on it’s rear end. The video is more helpful than the picture I provided. Could you help us out by identifying this weird insect? Here is a link to the video:
Signature: ~Meagan Preston
This is a Firefly in the family Lampyridae, and we believe it is either a larva or a larviform female. See this image on BugGuide that shows a similar insect from Texas.
My friend says that looks right except the insect in question was bigger than his thumb. Do they get that big?
We are not certain how large Fireflies grow in tropical countries. Alas, there is not a good comprehensive identification source for Vietnamese insect identifications that we are aware of that is in English.
He sent me a photograph.
The new image has much more detail. We stick to our guns on this being a Firefly Larva or adult Larviform (usually female) Firefly. Again, we are not familar with species from Vietnam, but when time permits, we will attempt to provide you with some additional information.
Letter 6 – Just One More Posting Until we reach 20,000 COUNTDOWN: Western Banded Glowworm or Male Firefly in Mount Washington???
Male Western Banded Glowworm in Mount Washington
Location: Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
April 3, 2015 10:00 PM
After a very long and busy day today, we arrived back at the office to find this male Western Banded Glowworm on the windowsill, and rather than to answer any requests that came in today, we decided to wait until morning and post our own first sighting in our yard and to wait until tomorrow to look at new mail. We are feeling a bit inadequate that the images of a Western Banded Glowworm male we found on BugGuide are so much more detailed than our own. In trying to find a link to our own site, we found this other possibility, a male Firefly, Pterotus obscuripennis.
Letter 7 – Firefly from South Africa
Subject: Bioluminescense Beetle
Location: Illovo beach, kingsburgh, kzn, south africa
December 7, 2016 2:32 pm
Hi. I found this one flying in home about 23h00pm. Caught it in a jar with sand and some leaves. Hoping its alive tomorrow evening to show my son.
Signature: not private?
This is a Firefly, a beetle in the family Lampyridae, but unfortunately, we did not find a visual match on iSpot.