What if we plunged the glowworms back into the dark?

A female lampyris noctiluca better known by its name of glowworm. – ARDEA / MARY EVANS / SIPA

  • Victims of human nuisances, it is increasingly rare to see glowworms.
  • France Nature Environnement Midi-Pyrénées has just launched an appeal to the general public to participate in a census of these beetles, the female of which lights up in the dark to attract the male.
  • A participatory science operation, launched in partnership with the Glowworms and Fireflies Observatory, which for several years has been highlighting the impact of light pollution on the reproduction of these little animals.

For the Celts, they represented the soul and spirit of an individual. Surrounded for centuries by magic and mystery, the glowworms recently illuminated gardens and countryside with their light. But in recent decades, it has become increasingly rare to spot them in the night at this time of year, when they are in the middle of a love parade.

The Lampyris noctiluca, which only have a worm in name, are victims of various human nuisances, whether it is the artificialization of soils, phytosanitary products or even light pollution. To find out the impact of street lamps and other artificial light sources on beetles,
France Nature Environment Midi-Pyrénées decide whether to call on the inhabitants of the region to draw up a census when they observe one near their homes. And
each explorer can bring his contribution by answering a questionnaire as soon as he spots a green light in the middle of the night.

“During the breeding season, the female emits light, it is bioluminescence, so that the male can distinguish her in the dark, but when there is lighting above natural spaces it disrupts this communication and hinders reproduction ”, explains Elliot Shaw, in charge of this participatory science operation within FNE. It was launched in collaboration with Glowworms and Fireflies Observatory, which has been carrying out this awareness program at the national level for several years.

Studies confirm the negative impact

And over the course of studies, the negative role played by public and private lighting continues to be confirmed. “All the treatments with artificial light have significantly suppressed the courtship activity,” indicates one of the latest, published last March by American biologists.

Fortunately, the female has other good things, like the emission of pheromones so that her partner can find her anyway. But light pollution, like the anti-slug pesticides spread in gardens that poison their larvae, disrupts the natural cycle of these little animals. “Our goal is to see if we turn off the affected area, and leave more room in the dark, will the glowworm regain ground,” asks Elliot Shaw, light pollution specialist at FNE. Midi-Pyrénées which has established a mini-guide for tallgrass explorers to learn more about the Lampyre.

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