Posts tagged fireflies

What do lightning bugs eat / An Evening with Fireflies

     An upcoming event at the Indian Creek Nature Center prompted me to call one of our awesome entomologists at Iowa State University. The Nature Center is having a walk at 8 p.m. Friday featuring one of my favorite insects –  the lightning bug!  

Lightning bug/ David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

Lightning bug/ David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

    What’s not to love about lightning bugs? They light up dark summer nights with their intermittent flashes and unlike other nighttime bugs, they don’t bite – in fact, they kind of tickle when you catch them. Best of all, in their younger stage, they eat slugs and other pests. 

Lightning bug larva/ Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State Univ., Bugwood.org

Lightning bug larva/ Gerald J. Lenhard, Louisiana State Univ., Bugwood.org

   I wrote about lightning bugs last year after attending a workshop led by ISU entomologist Donald Lewis. Until then, I had no idea that  lightning bugs, as larvae, dined on not only slugs, but other insect larvae and snails – a real beneficial beetle! But I’ve had a nagging question since then: what do adult lightning bugs eat? After all, kids catch lightning bugs all the time, put them in a jar, punch holes in the lid and throw some grass inside. So do lightning bugs eat grass??

   Probably not, was the answer.  Donald Lewis said, if anything, they might occasionally feed on nectar. Some female species of lightning bugs use the signal of a different variety of lightning bug to attract males, and then, well, the male doesn’t become their mate, but their meal!  So, that’s what that species eats, but, he said, most adult lightning bugs appear to not eat much of anything.

   As an aside, he noted that punching holes in the lid of a jar might be more harmful to lightning bugs than leaving the lid intact and not-too-tight on the jar. Lightning bugs come out at night because they need a certain level of humidity and would basically dry up in the hot summer sun. Punching holes might allow too much air into the jar and also dry out the bugs. Safest bet might be a catch and release method. Get a good look, admire their flashing lights and let them fly free.

     Here’s some info about Friday’s (June 5, 2009) walk:   An Evening with Fireflies, Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. 1 ½ mile walk on grass-surfaced trails. Members, $3; non-members, $5. Children, $1. For more details, see: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org or call (319) 362-0664.

    REMINDER: Remember to stop by the Gazette/KCRG tent between 9-10 a.m. Saturday (June 6, 2009) at the Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids. Sign up for the drawing (rattles, corn-made dishes and other baby items courtesy of Dandelion Earth Friendly Goods) and let me know what you’d like to see on the Homegrown blog and in The Gazette. The tent will be in Greene Square Park, along 4th Avenue, close to the corner along the railroad tracks. See you there!

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Garden Party and more in June

Following are some of the gardening and eco-events in Eastern Iowa in June 2009:

Fri., June 5., 8  p.m., An Evening with Fireflies, Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. 1 ½ mile walk on grass-surfaced trails. Members, $3; non-members, $5. Children, $1. See: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org

Sat., June 6, 4:30 p.m., Prairiewoods Garden Party at Mercy Medical Center’s Hallagan Education Center, 701 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids. Features local wines and artisan cheeses from Kalona; dinner at 6 p.m., silent and live auctions and music. Cost: $35 each or $250 for table of eight. Call (319) 395-6700.

Mon., June 8 – Sat., June 27, RIVERRenaissance, flood anniversary events. See full schedule at: www.downtowncr.org

Tues.,  June 9 and Thurs.,  June 11, 6 p.m and Sat., June 13,  9:30 a.m., Brucemore in Bloom, 2160 Linden Drive SE. Wander among the unique flowers and plants as the Brucemore garden staff traces the development of the formal garden from conception to the current design. Learn about Mrs. Douglas’ vision of turning Brucemore into a country estate and prominent Prairie Style landscape architect O.C. Simonds’ involvement in the process. Admission: $10/adult and free to Brucemore members. Call (319) 362-7375 for reservations or register online: www.brucemore.org

Thurs., June 11, 9 a.m., Invasive Species Field Day, Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center, 10260 Morris Hills Rd., Toddville. Learn about non-native invasive plants, typically transplants from distant places, that threaten native habitats in Iowa. Free program, lunch provided. Register by noon June 9 at www.LinnCountyParks.com by clicking on the “Events” area or call (319) 892-6450.

Sat., June 13, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Linn County Master Gardener garden walk. Explore five diverse Linn County Master Gardener gardens in Cedar Rapids and Marion. Gardens will include ornamental grasses, conifers, vegetables, perennials, containers, ponds and more. Master Gardeners will be at all of the gardens to answer your horticulture-related questions.  Admission: $5 per Adult; $10 per Family. Start at any of the five gardens. See: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn/news/Garden+Walk.htm

Sat. June 13, 10 a.m., Forever Green Garden Center, 125 Forevergreen Rd., Coralville, free pond and water feature seminar. Call (319) 626-6770 or e-mail:  lucyh@forevergreengrows.com

Sat., June 13, 1 p.m., Wetland dedication and walk, Indian Creek Nature Center. A half-mile walk where the Nature Center and Cargill have restored a forested wetland along the Cedar River. Free. See: http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org

Sat., June 20, 1 p.m.,  Green and Simple: Greens from the Yard, Indian Creek Nature Center. Join director Rich Patterson to learn how to identify and prepare nettles, dandelions, lambsquarter and other plants for food.  Members, $5; non-members, $8; children, $1. See:  http://indiancreeknaturecenter.org

Sat., June 20, 6:30-8 p.m., Summer Solstice Celebration, Prairiewoods, 120 E. Boyson Road, Hiawatha. Show appreciation for your dad and the summer season. Join us for a special Father’s Day/Summer Solstice Celebration. The evening will include poetry, prayer, festivities and end the night with a bonfire and s’mores. Free-will offering. Call (319)395-6700 and see: www.prairiewoods.org

 Sat., June 20- Sat., June 27, Project AWARE, Volunteer River Cleanup on the Cedar River. See: www.iowaprojectaware.com

Sun., June 21, 7-10 p.m., “Nature Rocks – The Concert,” Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. A green benefit for the Indian Creek Nature Center and SPT Theatre Company. Featuring Mexican food; chair massages; lessons on recycling and a live music concert by SPT’s Doug Elliott, Gerard Estella, Janelle Lauer, Jane Pini and guest artist Dave Moore. Bring lawn chairs. Tickets are $25 for adults, children 16 and under are free. Call the Nature Center at (319) 362-0664 or pay at the gate. See: www.indiancreeknaturecenter.org

 Tues.,  June 23, 6 p.m., Summer Landscape Hike, Brucemore, 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids. Welcome in summer by joining the Brucemore gardeners on a 90-minute hike that will emphasize the spirit of summer through the sights and sounds of the Brucemore estate. Experience the vivid colors of the formal gardens in full bloom, the lush rose bushes, and the fruits of the orchard while listening to stories of the Brucemore families. Admission is $10.00 per person and $7 per Brucemore member. Registration required. Space is limited, call (319) 362-7375 or register online: www.brucemore.org

Thurs., June 25, 7 p.m., Backyard Composting, Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St. Learn about converting yard and kitchen waste into valuable soil for your yard and garden. Presented by Risa Dotson Eicke, Master Gardener Intern. Information on ECO Iowa City compost bin subsidy will also be available. ECO Iowa City is a grant-funded initiative to improve environmental sustainability in Iowa City. Call (319) 887-6004.

Sat., June 27, 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., ECO Iowa City Landfill and Compost Facility tour, 3900 Hebl Ave. SW. Learn about how compost is made on a large scale, the environmental benefits of composting as a waste reduction tool and how you can use compost to improve your yard or gardens. Parking is limited. Register by calling the Library Reference Desk at (319)356 -5200, option 5.

Sun., June 28, 2 p.m., Cedar Rapids screening of “Mad City Chickens,” a sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical look at the people who keep urban chickens in their backyards; 79-minute movie followed by discussion, Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE. Admission by donation. For more info: www.tarazod.com/filmsmadchicks.html

If you know of other events, send an email to: cindy.hadish@gazcomm.com or add a comment below.

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