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ixochiyo_yohuallan
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05 Dec 2007, 11:35 am

This is especially for those living in the south of the USA, in the Mediterranean basin or in any country in Asia where there are many fireflies:

Do they have any scent?

Until I turned 7, I used to spend half of each year or longer with my paternal grandparents in Sochi (Northern Caucasus). The climate there is subtropical, and in the summer there are plenty fireflies. They fascinated me, - they were one of the things that made summer nights literally magical, - and when I could, I gathered them into a jar with the help of my grandmother and examined them. One thing I remember distinctly is that I was sure they had a scent - an odd dusty, leathery one, quite unlike any other I've ever felt.

I've searched online for information about various kinds of fireflies, and have never come across any mention that they might have a smell. Neither have I found anything about this in books. All the people I have asked either say that fireflies are scentless, or have no idea whether they have a scent or not.

It just has me curious. I need it for my writing - and just for curiosity's sake, I would like to find out whether they really do have a scent, or I had hallucinated it back then. ;)



alex
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05 Dec 2007, 11:37 am

Quote:
So catch all the fireflies you want. The only downside may be the foul smell they leave on your hands. The odor comes from defensive chemicals the fireflies secrete to deter predators. Birds, spiders and lizards have learned that fireflies will make them sick, so they leave them alone. Their coloration is also a warning.


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LeKiwi
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05 Dec 2007, 1:44 pm

Ants smell really gross... I've never seen a firefly so couldn't tell you. But ants definitely do. Ick.



AspieMartian
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05 Dec 2007, 6:09 pm

I used to catch fireflies, along with every other bug I could find, when I was a kid, and yes, they do have a defensive odor. I rarel mineded that when I was a kid. The bug odors don't bother me as much as they do other people, except for cockroaches. I never got used to their odor - it's a bacterial odor from mircorobes they pick up from their environs and live on their exoskeletons, though, and not a chemical kind like anys, fireflies, stink bugs, etc..



Redrocket
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05 Dec 2007, 6:55 pm

Wow! You learn something everyday. I never knew that fireflies had an odor. I use to read lots of insect books as a kid and I never ran across this one.



Icarus_Falling
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05 Dec 2007, 8:34 pm

I've never lived any place that fireflies also lived. :( I've only ever seen them once, when I was visiting my great aunt and uncle in Iowa. I remember looking out the window one evening, and seeing them blinking and flitting about, rather thickly. I had no idea what a firefly was at the time; I remember going to my mother (who was visiting also) and telling her that I thought something was wrong with my eyes; when she asked me why, I told her I was seeing strange green spots when I look out of the window.

Once I learned what they were, I took great joy in going outside and trying to catch them; I do not recall any smell, but I do not recall many things...

Examples of bioluminescence continue to fascinate me to this day; fireflies are one of nature’s many biochemical engineers.

Good fortune,

- Icarus sees spots...


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ixochiyo_yohuallan
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06 Dec 2007, 7:49 am

Alex, AspieMartian:

Thanks! This is an interesting thing in itself, and it's nice to know that I hadn't been seeing (or rather, smelling) things then. ;)

Yes, bioluminscence is mighty fascinating. One of the things that struck me is how efficient it is - from what I've read, it looks like a firefly will convert around 90 percent of its energy into light, while an incandescent bulb will convert only around 10 percent and release the rest as heat. Its mechanisms are interesting too, it looks like some organisms such as fireflies produce light due to chemical reactions in their own bodies, while others are symbiotic with specific bacteria which aid them.

AspieMartian, it looks like we're quite similar. I didn't catch many bugs as a child, but it was probably because I wasn't allowed to play outside too much (at least, not unsupervised). If we had lived somewhere in the countryside and I could be outdoors more often, I think I'd end up doing exactly the same. I did pick up injured butterflies (though I was actually phobic of them at the time), bring them home and put them in a shelter I'd made on my balcony with cellophane stretched over a table like a tent. Then I'd wait and see if they recovered and flew away.



WhiteRaven
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06 Dec 2007, 1:44 pm

i wouldn't know, as i have never put a firefly to my nostril and sniffed it, but i expect it would have


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