Do Fireflies (Lightning Bugs) Bite or Sting?

Pyractomena angulata firefly
Judy Gallagher / Flickr

Written by Nixza Gonzalez

Updated: June 1, 2023

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Fireflies are beautiful flying insects. Although most of us picture tiny flickering lights in the sky, not all fireflies glow or light up! Currently, there are over 2,000 recognized firefly species, all with unique characteristics. But are these insects violent or dangerous? Do fireflies (lightning bugs) bite or sting? Follow along to find out!

Do Fireflies Bite or Sting?

Fireflies don’t sting or bite! Fireflies are great insects that don’t pose a threat to humans. They also don’t affect crops or plants. Instead, they light up the sky in a unique way! So, how do fireflies defend themselves?

Interestingly, the way they defend themselves from predators is actually by lighting up! Fireflies flashlights to warn their predators. They also produce defensive steroids, which make them taste too bitter for predators. Larvae also produce light to deter their natural predators. Some predators include birds, spiders, and frogs.

What Do Fireflies Eat - Fireflies in Jar

Fireflies are harmless to humans. They don’t bite, sting, or harm crops and plants.

Can You Touch a Firefly?

Fireflies won’t attack you. When in large groups, these lovely glowing insects are easy to touch and catch. However, if you catch them the wrong way, you risk accidentally harming them. No one wants to crush a lightning bug.

The best way to safely and successfully catch a lightning bug is by searching for a group of them. They are very active in the summer and at night. However, not all parts of the world have large groups of fluttering fireflies. To catch these glowing insects, you can use a jar with holes or a net. A quick tip is to not use bright lights. This makes the fireflies hard to see and also confuses them. Light pollution has played a role in dwindling firefly numbers.

When using a net, approach the fireflies slowly. Too much movement can scare them away. Typically though, fireflies are docile and calm around people. If you’re using a jar, the instructions are the same. Although fireflies may live for a few days in the jar, they won’t thrive. Fireflies aren’t great pets. If you catch them during the summer, it’s best if their housing situation is temporary. Let the fireflies go at night. During the day, there are many predators and you can leave them vulnerable.

Firefly flying away from a child's hand,

Fireflies don’t bite, you can touch them, but be very careful not to crush them as they are small insects.

Are Fireflies Helpful?

Every insect plays a unique role in the world. Fireflies are no exception. These flying insects are beneficial for most gardens. They consume many backyard pests including snails which are known to destroy plants. The larvae also feed on slugs. These insects typically live near tall grass. So, if you have noticed more lightning bugs in your yard, it may be because of the length of your grass. One way to attract these insects to your yard is to let your grass grow!

Firefly Fun Facts

Now that we know if fireflies bite or sting, we can dive into some fun facts about these unique insects!

  • Did you know that fireflies aren’t flies or bugs? Even though they are called lightning bugs, these insects are beetles.
  • Fireflies don’t produce a warm light. This would harm them! Instead, they produce a “cold light”.
  • Fireflies have a very short lifespan. They only live for about two months in the wild.
  • Although you can catch fireflies, they don’t make great pets. They only live for a few weeks in adult form.
  • The largest firefly species can grow up to the size of your palm. Imagine catching one in the wild!
  • The most common firefly species in North America is the common eastern firefly, also known as the big dipper firefly.
  • Some firefly species are so small they don’t even weigh more than 0.1 grams.
  • Another name for the lightning bug is a glow worm.
  • Female and male fireflies glow to attract mates. They can control the light and produce unique symbols.
  • Some of the best places to see fireflies in the United States are national parks like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Congaree National Park.
  • Blue ghost fireflies are found in the eastern and central United States. They are an all-brown beetle that produces a bright light at night. The light from afar looks blueish-white but is green up close.
  • Some firefly species are poisonous. When threatened or afraid, fireflies can release blood drops with toxins.
  • Sadly, many reptiles die because of the firefly’s toxin when they produce light.

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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