Plight of the Firefly


The Analytical Luminescent Lab in Baltimore put out a bounty on fireflies. Yes, it’s true. They are buying bug scalps. Well, okay, it isn’t the scalp they are interested in. It’s the opposite part – the flasher. While entomologists (big word for bug lover) do catch specimens to study, they do not harvest them in quantity.

Something about the idea of catching and selling these harmless creatures rubs me the wrong way.

Fireflies of the world, listen to me! It is time to flee for your lives. In the past you were valued for the beauty and joy you brought with your flash. Poets have written about you; children have delighted in your flash. You have been mysterious twinkling creatures of the night, pondered and studied, but never quite understood.

Your flash has been understood by you alone, or perhaps only by your Creator. You have been captured, bisected, and studied by those who wish to discover your secret. Science has determined that one of the chemicals producing the light in your glowing tail is called “luciferase.” This is where the problem lies.

You see, fireflies, they have put out a bounty on your life! You are being systematically captured and sold for the very enzyme that creates your magic. A laboratory is buying your brothers, mates and offspring by the gram, by the ounce, by the hundreds. Your value is no longer in your luminescent beauty, but in your chemical composition.

Magical creatures, you want only to flash, to wave your lanterns, to dance, to live your brief life, and lay your eggs for the next season before you expire. But in the name of science, you are a wanted species. What is your life worth to science? About $1.30 for a hundred of your kind, a small amount for so many lives.

Fireflies of Tennessee are especially valued. Your species, photinus pyralis, is wanted for the quality of the enzyme. You are a slow flying species, easy prey, easy to capture, easy to kill. Hundreds of you will die prematurely. Some will make it to the labs of genetic research. Others will most likely die in vain and not be harvested in sufficient quantity to sell.

Is it not enough that your habitat is being destroyed, that you must struggle to find a birthplace for your glowworms and the natural environment to sustain them? Now you are being deliberately and systematically captured and slaughtered. You will be frozen alive, your tails removed and liquefied to be made into a crystal for scientific application.

You are only a bug. That you are harmless, do nothing except seek a mate with your twinkling flash seems not to matter. It is the advancement of science that is important, not the preservation of nature. In the name of genetic research all things are believed to be worthwhile.

We have seen the mysterious disappearance of fireflies in other areas where they were once plentiful. What happened to the fireflies of Houston is a question frequently asked. Destruction of habitat has been your major enemy. Your bitter taste and your warning flash have protected you from most predators. But they do not protect you from your major enemy – man.

In our haste to understand the basics of life, men willingly destroy the creatures that give them the knowledge. Insects are merely insects, they say. To kill a few for the pursuit of knowledge is not a bad thing. Insects and animals are put here to serve man, not to exist of their own right. The species is plentiful. The bugs that are sacrificed will hardly be missed in the vastness of nature.

And so, something is wrong, terribly wrong. When we are wise enough to understand all the mysteries of biology, and expose all the secrets of the universe, let us hope that the sacrifice has been worthwhile and that there will still be a universe left worth understanding.

Copyright 2003 Sheila Moss

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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2 Responses to Plight of the Firefly

  1. drooger says:

    How did the plight of the firefly turn out?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sheila Moss says:

      The fireflies rebelled and took over the lab. They put out a bounty on scalps of Lab Scientists who all fled and were last seen in line at the unemployment office. Fireflies have enlisted the help of killer bees and fire ants to ensure their long-term safety. The Lab now does research on solar energy to produce an alternate light resource. (LOL Actually, I have no idea, but fireflies are out this season, so apparently they are survivors.)

      Liked by 1 person

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