How Do Glow Worms Produce Light?


Quick Answer

Glow worms produce light using a chemical reaction involving the chemicals luciferin, luciferase, ATP and oxygen. They use this light primarily to attract mates, but also to ward off predators. Glow worms have powerful bitter-tasting compounds in their bodies that predators learn to associate with their glow.

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Full Answer

Glow worms are actually a type of beetle also known as fireflies or lightning bugs. Only the males fly, but the females glow more brightly than the males. Neither sex eats much once they reach adulthood, but their larvae are predators of slugs and snails. The larvae also glow in order to take advantage of predators' aversion to the adult beetles. The glow of glow worms is extremely efficient, and a large majority of the energy used is transformed into light, with very little loss of heat.

Glow worms are very visible at night when they occur, but a region can go up to two years between their appearances. This is because the adults live short lives and die shortly after reproducing. The larvae, which do not fly and are rarely seen, take three years to develop. They are nocturnal animals that spend most of their lives under leaf litter, coming out only to breed.

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