The photo is of my meadow, up against the edge of the woods, taken from my deck. Like a lot of wildlife, lightning bugs seem to like the boundaries between woods and meadow. I’m lucky because I have about a thousand feet of that habitat. Well, lucky except for the deer and wild turkeys that have been materializing out of the edge of the woods to conduct raids on my green tomatoes. I’m torn between grabbing the camera and taking a picture of deer and turkeys working together, or grabbing the slingshot and popping their thievin’ butts. But so far I’ve not been quick enough to do either. They run back into the woods as soon as they see me. The deer run silently and with dignity. The wild turkeys squawk and flap like melodramatic cowards. The turkeys run and flap. They don’t fly, at least not until they’re close enough to a tree to get up on a limb. The turkeys are as undignified and graceless as the deer are dignified and graceful.
But anyway, as long as I’m attempting to photograph some things that are almost impossible to photograph, here’s lightning bugs. In the photo above, the lightning bugs are just tiny dots in the blackness, the same size and luminosity as stars. Some of the lightning bugs show up as red in the photo. I have no idea why. It must be a trick of the camera, because to the eye lightning bugs are always a silvery or golden color, like stars. The photo above has not been altered or color-adjusted in any way. It’s straight from the camera, a Kodak DC-265. Lightning bugs cruise along slowly at an altitude of a few feet to 40 feet or so. They wink every few seconds. It’s an interesting game to try to guess where any particular bug will appear next. They always surprise you, though they’ve flown only a few feet between blinks. Wikipedia is quite correct when it says that lightning bugs are more crepuscular than nocturnal.
But, difficult to photograph or not, few sights can compare to the sight of lightning bugs during a summer evening in the South. There are not as many lightning bugs as there used to be. Development has reduced their habitat. But they’re really sweet bugs — beautiful, gentle, and harmless. Along with honey bees, they’re the royalty of the insect world, and they deserve to flourish.