BOOK REVIEW: “Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs: Identification and Natural History of the Fireflies of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada”

Fireflies. Lightning Bugs. Who doesn’t love them. I vividly remember growing up in a place where fireflies were a rarity and to see one was a thrill. I remember catching them with my butterfly net and being fascinated by this small beetle with the light up butt. Because sightings were so few and far between, I kind of forgot the magic of seeing this amazing little insect. That is, until maybe two years ago.


While traveling, I was staying at a hotel and at dusk I witnessed something I had never seen before. Hundreds of fireflies in one space flitting about flashing their greenish-yellow beacons. More recently, while walking in a park in Massachusetts, I witnessed a similar display. The magic of childhood not only flooded back, but it flooded back in waves at the sheer intensity of the show that was being put on. And now to today.

Recently I moved into a house in a wooded area, excited at the prospect of seeing insects I had never seen before, in particular when it comes to Saturniid moths. I kind of assumed that fireflies would be a part of those insects being seen but I never expected that I would now be experiencing, on a nightly basis, the very same light shows I had experienced in previous years with hundreds of fireflies displaying right in my back yard. I was in heaven. Seeing them like this made me think of what it must have been like way back in history with people experiencing these flashes of light and I can certainly understand why people at one time thought they were faeries. Though I had read about fireflies in my various field guides, I never thought there would be a book like the one that is the subject of this review.


Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs: Identification and Natural History of the Fireflies of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada,” by Lynn Frierson Faust, is an obvious labor of love by someone that had the same fascination that I did as a child. This book is the first-ever comprehensive firefly guide for eastern and central North America. It is written for all those who want to know more about the amazing world of lightning bugs and learn the secrets hidden in the flash patterns of the 75+ species found in the eastern and central United States and Canada. As an independent researcher working with numerous university teams, naturalist Lynn Frierson Faust, “The Lightning Bug Lady,” has spent decades tracking the behavior and researching the habitats of these fascinating creatures.

Based on her twenty-five years of fieldwork, this book is intended to increase understanding and appreciation of bioluminescent insects while igniting enthusiasm in a fun and informative way. Species accounts are coupled with historical backgrounds and literary epigraphs to engage and draw readers young and old into the world of these tiny sparklers. A chart documenting the flash patterns of the various species will aid in identification.


Clear photos illustrate the insects’ distinguishing physical characteristics, while habitats, seasonality, and common names are provided in easy-to-understand yet scientifically accurate language. The guide will be welcomed by everyone who wants to learn more about fireflies’ and glow-worms’ unique traits and fragile niche in the ecosystem.

Over 600 color photographs
Detailed accounts and anatomical diagrams of 75+ species, as well as aids in distinguishing between similar species
A first-of-its-kind flash-pattern chart that folds out on heavy-weight paper
Extensive scientific details written in an understandable and engaging way
Colorful common names―Twilight Bush Baby, Shadow Ghosts, Snappy Syncs, and more―for easy species identification based on flash patterns
Tips on ideal sites and times of year for firefly watching
Conservation-oriented approach

This book fascinated me from cover-to-cover. First off, I never realized there were so many species of lightning bugs just in my area! I would’ve guessed maybe 2 species, as I witnessed both green and yellow lights on a nightly basis. I also never would’ve guessed that their lives were so complicated and that each species had it’s own individual flash pattern used to attract mates.


Each species has six inclusive categories: Quick ID, Appearance, Flash behaviors, Time of year/Time of day/night, Research and Nature notes. Each entry is thoroughly researched with accompanying photos. Though most fireflies look very similar, this guide will definitely aid in pinpointing what you are seeing flying in your back yard. Multiple photos are provided for each species, pointing out the important identifying features (coloration, markings and closeups of the area of the abdomen that actually lights up).

This is one of the best books out there, not just on fireflies but as an insect guide. It belongs in every entomologist’s library, whether you are a professional or hobbyist. Though there is a lot of scientific information in here, it is not written on a scientific level, allowing everyone to be able to read and enjoy this book.

To order your own copy, just click on the image below.

~David Albaugh

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