Flashing firefly; photo © E.R. Degginger/Color-Pic, Inc. - www.color-pic.com - Ed Degginger (all rights reserved; used by permission).
Official State Insect of Tennessee
The firefly was designated the official state insect of Tennessee in 1975 (also the insect symbol of Pennsylvania). Tennessee recognizes three more insects as state symbols: ladybug, zebra swallowtail butterfly (state butterfly), and the honeybee (state agricultural insect). All State Insects
A small, unremarkable beetle by day, the firefly transforms midsummer nights into a magical fairyland of tiny, brilliant flashing lights - a wonder of nature. The most familiar species of firefly in Tennessee is Photinus pyralls.
Commonly called "lightning bug," the firefly produces light through an efficient chemical reaction with very little heat given off as wasted energy. One or both sexes use species-specific flash patterns to attract members of the opposite sex (though not all firefly species are bioluminescent as adults). These signals range from a continuous glow, to discrete single flashes, to "flash-trains" composed of multi-pulsed flashes.
In most North American species of firefly, the males fly about flashing their species-specific flash pattern, while females are typically perched on vegetation near the ground. When a flashing male attracts a female, she responds at a fixed-time delay after the male's last flash. A short flash dialogue may ensue between the fireflies as the male firefly locates her position and descends to mate.