Lightning Bugs, Or Fireflies

Lightning Bugs Jar Fireflies Watercolor Illustration

When I was kid during the summer months, lightning bugs, or fireflies, were my favorite sign that summer had begun, so that’s what came to mind with our prompt of “lightning” today. A few, at least, captured for a moment in a mason jar. Though we have plenty of thunderstorms and actual lightning here during summer, I caught a glimpse of one of these little flying beetles glowing last night and was thrilled to see it. I remember chasing them gleefully through the evening as the sun was setting as a child. I was reading an article once about why some people in the United States call them lightning bugs and others call them fireflies. I always knew them as lightning bugs, which is most common in the Midwest and the South, where lightning storms are more prevalent. If you’re in the West, you’re more likely to call them fireflies, though it’s rarer to see a flashing one, where wild fires are more prevalent. There’s no proof that this was the exact reason for the difference in names, but it seems perfectly plausible, so it’s what I choose to believe. Of course, just two names wouldn’t be enough for this wonder of nature so there are tons of others including Blinkies, Moon Bugs, Golden Sparklers, and Fire Devils. As it turns out, something that flies about with a glowing butt is apparently rather difficult to accurately describe.

I’ve always called them lightning bugs, because indeed any flashes of light here remind me of lightning storms. Lightning was equal parts terrifying and thrilling when I was a kid, but when you’re a kid in these cases, the fear subsides and the thrill always wins out. The same thing happened with tornadoes. While cowering in our basement, I secretly wanted to go outside to actually view one in person. A stupidly dangerous idea, to be sure, but that’s the plight of the curious. Thankfully, no tornadoes have ever gotten quite that close, until a couple of weeks ago when one skipped by just a bit too close the city. So, in the end, I prefer the calmer natural wonders like lightning bugs. It’s quite clear when it comes to the weather that we’ve pissed nature off and one can only hope we learn to dance with it instead of always blindly ignoring the importance of harmony. Philippe loves dinosaurs, and certainly their impressive 165 million years on this planet pales in comparison to our own. Our own species has been around only about 200,000 years, but only truly human as we know it for a much, much shorter period. Humans are quite different, however, since they aren’t naturally prone to live in tandem with an ecosystem, but more likely to lean toward an “egosystem” instead. Perhaps, there’s something very important to learn from the dinosaurs after all.

For my own part, I’ve always adored nature. I love that we get to live alongside so many different and fascinating creatures. I was the kid who would capture lightning bugs along with the others, but only for a moment before letting them go again. I would have been heartbroken if I thought I’d separated a little glowing beetle from his wife and children for very long. My favorite part was indeed the moment when I released them back into the world, harboring just a bit of guilt for my curious indulgence. I only wanted to capture of bit of that magic and that was such an overwhelming feeling that I got a bit lost in the moment. Today, I turn instead to watercolor to recreate many of those moments. I hope to capture just a tiny glimpse of that magical feeling that I had once before, in a time when I didn’t know what was coming next. A single moment of joy that now feels perfectly timeless. Though the world charges forward with new and incredible things to offer every day, life has always been truly incredible. Sometimes, you just have to pause for a moment and really look at what it naturally has to offer. So, I’ll chose to keep showing up with my tiny glimpses of the most mundane things while, for a moment, stopping only to ponder if I should call these tiny miracles lightning bugs, or fireflies.

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Lightning Bugs Jar Fireflies Sketchbook Illustration
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22 Comments
  1. Karen Fortier 2 weeks ago

    I share those memories, great post.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks, Karen! 😃💕 Happy to know these are wonderful shared memories!

  2. Sharon Nolfi 2 weeks ago

    I love the hues on the glass. We don’t have lightning bugs in So Cal. In fact I had never seen one until I was an adult on a bus in Alexandria, VA. Suddenly I saw what I thought was some electrical malfunction, and I screamed! People said “It’s just lightning bugs. You must not be from around here.” They did look pretty magical.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      haha! I adore that story, Sharon! 😃💕Yeah, I think if I saw lightning bugs when I was older I would have screamed as well! As it stands, I certainly squealed quite a lot as a kid. They’re just so cool!

  3. Laura M Bailey 2 weeks ago

    Love this. They are synonymous with summer to me and childhood. Memories of lemonade, like sipping sunshine from paper cups, watermelon, and the sticky sweet juice, dripping from my chin and twilight chasing lightening bugs with my cousins. We’d capture them, placing them into madonna jars just as you depicted only to release them yet again. I never had the heart to smash them or hold them too long. They were magical. Just last summer as I stood on the deck of my new lake home one night, I experienced that childhood awe again when suddenly, a million fireflies simultaneously fired up as they rose from the ground forming a twinkling canopy above me. Stunning.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks so much, Laura! 😃💕Thrilled to hear we share the same wonderful memories! That twinkling canopy sounds perfectly magical!! Awesome! Yeah, I could never hold onto them for very long. Magic like that needs to fly free!

  4. Robert J. Coleman 2 weeks ago

    Outstanding capture of the captured fireflies! My folks also made sure that we released them after watching them for a while in the (you nailed it!) Mason jar. I had an encounter with one just two nights ago, when one came in before we locked the doors for the night. In the dark, in bed, I saw a flash of light and thought it was the smoke detector announcing the battery was ok. But then I saw it again, above the bed, and then by the door. As it flew over, I could see the faint glow in its body before it flashed again. Not sure where it went after that, and I hope it got outside in the morning. A rather weird encounter, to be sure, but a flashback to those summer nights chasing little flecks of lightning.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks so much, Bob! 😃💕That sounds like a wonderful flashback. I too have had those sparkling encounters with these little flying beetles. They’re so fascinating!

  5. Lisa 2 weeks ago

    Having spent most of my formative years growing up in a farmette surrounded by swamps, I am very familiar with fireflies. There were a crazy amount of them by us because they like the damp. We’d catch and release too. One time I was out picking wild strawberries in the field behind the house and suddenly I saw a spark of fire in the grass. I quickly stamped on it because I was afraid of a grass fire. When I took my foot off, it was still there and my heart started pounding so hard. It was several seconds before I realized that it was phosphorescents from a now dead firefly. My relief was monumental! I still love fireflies and always try to go for a ride on a steamy hot June day to watch them rise magically from the grassy ditches.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Oh wow… poor firefly, but glad to hear there was no fire, of course! 😉 Yeah, they are just amazing creatures… and if you happen to live in the right spot, a definite sign that summer is here! 😃💕

  6. Sandra Strait 2 weeks ago

    I think ‘flies about with a glowing butt ‘ would be the perfect name for all species of fireflies. Except the ones here in Oregon, that are fireflies but oddly enough don’t emit any light. Don’t ask me – the scientists are the ones that come up with this crazy stuff!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      hehe… yeah, the ones on the West Coast weren’t blessed with a glowing butt like the ones we have here. 😉 I think that would make them more like bugs… here, they’re perfectly magical! lol

  7. Snehlata Maheshwari. 2 weeks ago

    Nice post liekid..

  8. LoriCtoo 2 weeks ago

    Remember them well. Sittling on the porch in Wisc watching them buzz around. I do miss them out here. Your jar is a great depiction of how they look when they are gathered. I chose to sketch a cartoony big one. It was interesting to do because I had no idea what one would look like close up and feeling to lazy to google it. 🙂

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      That’s awesome, Lori! 😃💕The best bits often come from our own imagination. I sketched one from an image close up, and it was a little too real. hehe… the light is the cool bit, the rest just seems like a bug. 😉

  9. Mary Roff 2 weeks ago

    Wonderful post, Charlie! There are over 50 kinds of lightning bugs here in Florida but I have seen not a one in the over 20 years we’ve been here :-(. Happy to say I did see them last summer when I was visiting in WNY and even happier to say that the joy of seeing them hasn’t changed a bit since childhood.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thanks so much, Mary! 😃💕hehe… Yay! Thrilled to hear the joy of seeing them is just as amazing. Yeah, I think if I hadn’t seen them for that many years, I go full on kid and start chasing after them again! lol

  10. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 2 weeks ago

    This is a beautiful artwork, Charlie – a pleasure to look at, to imagine the deeper story within the painting. I haven’t read your article yet, but wanted to tell you how captivated I am by this lovely image.

    Now that I’ve read the article: it’s one of your best, frighteningly prescient in identifying humans as major players of a self created “egosystem.” And as always, full of the wonder you help us encounter every day.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Thank you so much, Sharon! 😃💕Thrilled you enjoyed this one! Yeah, I think we humans need to be a little more present in our decisions moving forward. I hope we can get back to the ecosystem before it’s too late, but only time will tell. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the memories! 😉

  11. smzang 2 weeks ago

    Charlie says, “Though the world charges forward with new and incredible things to offer every day, life has always been truly incredible” Yes!! It’s a state of mind, I think. Visiting here always gives a huge boost to my state of mind.

    Soon time for our lightning bugs to dancing about flashing Morse Code. Guess I better be studying up on it.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 weeks ago

      Yes! hehe… I do think they communicate in Morse Code… or something equally interesting. Oh to understand the language of fireflies. I think, in many ways, we’d find that perfect state of mind! 😃💕

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