glow worms

Finding glow worms

ALTHOUGH regarded as common, sightings of glow worms in their full iridescent splendour can be few and far between.

Around mid-June to early August, you might just catch a glimpse of a tiny, but very bright light in the hedgerow or undergrowth as the females offer up their annual glowing enticement to the males who fly above the flora on warm and still nights in the hope of spotting a bioluminescent bottom.

Curiously, a glow worm isn’t a worm. It is, in fact, a beetle.

Lampyris noctiluca measures around 2cm in length, and while the males have all the appearance you might expect of a flying beetle, the females look nothing like them.

The female glow worm spends its entire, albeit short, life resembling the larvae stage. They also have no wings.

However, they do possess a more magical quality – the ability to produce an intense light from their backside!

How? You might well ask. Well, the female has a molecule called luciferin which, when exposed to oxygen, creates oxyluciferin. This, in turn, causes a chemical reaction with a light-emitting enzyme called luciferase and, hey presto, bioluminescence!

Although widespread throughout England and Wales, lampyris noctiluca is more commonly sighted in southern counties.

Where to find glow worms…

For the best chance of seeing glow worms, head out (obviously in the dark) on warm and calm evenings in June and July. Look for particularly for limestone or chalk grassland where the heat of the summer day is contained through the evening.

Disused railway lines also offer up very favourable conditions for glow worms. Oddly enough, the encounter in the video here was indeed filmed on The Greenway in Stratford-upon-Avon – a disused railway line.

These sorts of habitats provide a wealth of eating opportunities. Despite their fairy-tale appearance, glow worms are fearsome predators who hunt snails and slugs.

They inject digestive proteins through several bites that paralyse and dissolve their victim. Glow worms have even been known to simply ride on a snail’s shell as they wait for the toxins to take effect.

FURTHER READING: Fossil hunting in the UK

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.