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.
Signature: -Rebecca

Firefly Larvae

Dear Rebecca,
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.

Firefly Larva

Firefly Larva

Location: Newport, Oregon

4 Responses to Firefly Larvae in Oregon

  1. Roni Z says:

    Hey, Rebecca! Loved your question!
    Nice to know there are others who have childhood mysteries needing to be solved!
    Isn’t this website THE BEST???
    Roni
    PS I accidentally sent this comment to a previous “inquisitor”. Oops.

  2. Roni Z says:

    Hey, Rebecca! Loved your question!
    Nice to know there are others who have childhood mysteries needing to be solved!
    Isn’t this website THE BEST???
    Roni
    PS I accidentally sent this comment to a previous “inquisitor”. Oops.

  3. Ella says:

    I have found bioluminescent caterpillars in the Oregon forests. They had yellow horizontal glowing stripes across their body. I discovered them in 2016. Very exciting! Ella, Portland

  4. Lewis says:

    These are called Douglas Fir Glow Worms and they’re quite common on the coast any place that has lots of winter moisture and a lot of slugs and millipedes There’s a good picture FB link to what they look like in their adult form. https://www.facebook.com/zenaforest/posts/we-have-glow-worms-in-oregon-i-and-no-idea-after-a-bunch-of-googling-i-discovere/1013542745331255/

    I have seen them them every Fall, Winter and Spring here in SW Oregon

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