I’d always assumed lightning bugs–also known as “fireflies” by the utterly pretentious–could be found in Britain as well as the United States. There are legends there of the will-o’-the-wisp that would lure unwary travelers into bogs and drown them, although that was probably swamp gas. And there are glow-worms. There’s a glow-worm in Roald Dahl’s James And The Giant Peach. She’s a pretty minor character and I think Dahl forgot about her once most of the action moved to the top of the peach, but it’s not as though bioluminescent insects are unknown on the other side of the pond. So it kind of threw me when, as we were walking up the driveway to the house where I was staying, my British friend stopped and said, “Chris…why are there little lights all over your yard?”
We’d had a few drinks and he wondered if I’d slipped something in his beer while he wasn’t looking. In retrospect I wish I’d strung him along a little bit and asked, “What? What the hell are you talking about?” Instead I reached down and scooped up a lightning bug. And it was a good opportunity to tell him about the time when I was a kid and filled a jar with lightning bugs then turned them loose in the house. My parents spent half the night catching them. Then when they finally went to bed they lay there in the dark and could see the occasional flash.
This was in Indiana where a bill to make the lightning bug the state insect. It never went anywhere. Regardless of your political views how can you not embrace that? There’s a U-Haul trailer design of a giant lightning bug that specifically says “Indiana”.
Maybe it’s because they’re sneaky. I set a camera out one night when there seemed to be hundreds of them out. No matter where I put it they seemed to say, “Okay, we’re being watched. Let’s move over there!”