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Glow Worm450h5117

Nikon D5000. 3 sec f8 + Integral Flash, Sigma 105mm Macro lens. 30/06/12

Glow-Worm-99h Glow-Worm-99h
Glow Worm by Andy
Glow Worm450h5170

Nikon D5000. 1 sec f8 + Integral Flash, Sigma 105mm Macro lens. 30/06/12

Glow Worm450h5152

Nikon D5000. 1 sec f8 + Integral Flash, Sigma 105mm Macro lens. 30/06/12

Glow Worm450h5214

Nikon D5000. 8 sec f11 + Integral Flash, Sigma 105mm Macro lens. 30/06/12

Glow Worm450h5209

Nikon D5000. 8 sec f13 + Integral Flash, Sigma 105mm Macro lens. 30/06/12

Female Glow Worm beetle producing light to attract a mate.

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Nikon D5000. 1/200 f16 + Integral Flash, Sigma 105mm Macro lens. 27/06/12

Glow Worm Pupae and empty larvae shed skin.

Glow Worm Pupae450w5207

Nikon D5000. 1/200 f14 + Integral Flash, Sigma 105mm Macro lens. 27/06/12

Glow Worm Pupae.

Glow Worm (Lampyris Noctiluca)

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Nikon D5000. 1/200 f22 + Integral Flash, Sigma 105mm Macro lens. 02/07/12

Female Glow Worm beetle resting in an empty garden snail shell.

Finding this interesting insect walking along a path brought back childhood memories of seeing glow worms in Devon while camping. Glow worms are not a worm but a beetle, the larvae I found was looking for somewhere to pupate. The larvae look similar to the larvae of a harlequin ladybird but much larger. This would have been its second summer after hibernating as larvae through the winter you can see the empty larvae skin next to the pupae in my picture even the pupae glowed as a warning when I disturbed it. The larvae can glow as well but not as bright as an adult female beetle. If disturbed by a predator the larvae will flash its light on and off and it is said that the larvae can communicate at night and will gang together under a log to pupate, which must help during breeding in finding a mate.

The Metamorphosis from Pupae to adult beetle from my captive specimen was very quick, under three weeks. The larvae mainly feed on snails and slugs which they paralyse with poison before sucking them dry, mostly feeding at night when snails are also most active. It is the wingless females that glow brightly to attract the flying males at night, the males rarely glow and I have found adult males in my moth trap in the past. The adult female only lives for a few weeks after mating and laying her 50 to 150 eggs which also lightly glow. This has been the most exciting insect to study and a challenge to photograph especially trying to show the movement of the adult beetles waving its lit abdomen with a long exposure, although it does not move its abdomen as fast as my exaggerated animation. The flash exposure compensation was used to cut down the amount of light from my flashgun to try and show the beetle in subdued light. It is a shame that this amazing insect runs out of battery only after a few weeks. It is the intensity of the light which has surprised me; it really does look like to two LED's. The glowing of this insect in all stages is also thought to act as a warning to predators as the chemicals in the insects bodies is mildly toxic and so distasteful to eat.

On the 09/07/12 I returned the adult female Glow Worm beetle close to where I found it, it should have at least two weeks left of life. As they can lay so many eggs I thought it was important to make the effort. 

Glow Worm Baby450w5587

Baby Glow Worm larvae measuring only 5mm found in moss.

Glow Worm Baby450w5586

Baby Glow Worm larvae.

I wanted to learn more about this interesting insect and its habitat, so I spent some time searching the area by looking under logs and barks and found nothing. On the 16/07/12 I returned again and could not resist another look, and after some time searching through thick moss between a row of trees I found a baby Glow Worm larvae measuring only 5mm and when I placed both hands over the small larvae It was glowing probably because it had been disturbed, although the glow was like a single small light. It makes sense hiding in moss, it is a damp and safe area where a very small species of snails live and also slugs so the larvae will have a constant supply of food.

How do Glow Worms Produce Light?

The luminous light is created from specialised cells in the Glow Worms abdomen, which is called a ‘bioluminescence’ a cold light (no heat) created by a chemical reaction inside the body of the Glow Worm, which then produces a greenish yellow light.

Andy Newman Images©