One of my wildlife highlights of the summer is actually something that draws me out after the long sunny days, as it can only be appreciated after dark.
Of course, I am talking about glow worms (Lampyris noctiluca) which I have been enjoying for quite a few years now. In the evenings of June and July, limestone rich grasslands (and other suitable habitats) can appear to sparkle as you walk through.
The bioluminescent glow, produced by a chemical reaction between luciferin and oxygen, is surprisingly bright. It is produced by the female glow worm, which is in fact a beetle despite having an elongated abdomen which is reminiscent of the annelid.
The female is an exquisitely coloured creature, with this fabulous glowing abdomen which hangs curled below her around a grass stem. In stark contrast, the male is a rather unassuming beetle which is drawn to the eerie glow. As the female is flightless, all she has to do is sit in wait for a male to be attracted to her glow. The last time I visited these ethereal insects I was fortunate enough to film and observe the female in copulation, which is a rather un-dignified ritual, especially under torch light!
I would 100% recommend that you get out there late one night to spot these awesome beetles; they are certainly a reminder of the gems that are to be found in the British countryside, if you know where to look.
The larvae and males of this species both have the ability to produce the bioluminescent glow, however it is the female who is responsible for the famous glowing display. The larvae however are pretty impressive in their development time of up to 3 years! Unfortunately, the UK population of glow worms is little recorded (however this is changing), so it is unknown whether they are declining along with so many of our native species.
A great site to have a look at how you can get involved with monitoring, or to see where your nearest guided glow worm walks are is the UK Glow Worm Survey page . I would 100% recommend that you get out there late one night to spot these awesome beetles; they are certainly a reminder of the gems that are to be found in the British countryside, if you know where to look.