Photuris pennsylvanica

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Pennsylvania firefly
Photuris pennsylvanicus 1665.jpg
Photuris pennsylvanica
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Family: Lampyridae
Genus: Photuris
Species: P. pennsylvanica
Binomial name
Photuris pennsylvanica
De Geer 1774 [1]

Photuris pennsylvanica, known by the common names Pennsylvania firefly, lightning bug,[2] Pennsylvania lightning bug,[3] and (in its larval state) glowworm,[4] is a species of firefly from the United States and Canada.[2][4]


P. pennsylvanica is a somewhat flattened beetle approximately 0.75 inch (2 cms) in length. Its primary color is black, but it has two bright-red eyespots on its thorax, as well as yellow edging on its thorax and wing case. The species is carnivorous, and feeds mostly on insects, but also on other invertebrates, such as land snails on occasion. The terminal segments of its abdomen are white-yellow and glow when the insect manifests its bioluminescence.[5]

State insect[edit]

In 1974, P. pennsylvanica was designated the state insect of Pennsylvania.[2] Its designation as such started with a group of Highland Park Elementary School students in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.[6] Fireflies are abundant in Pennsylvania and are enjoyed for their ability to "transform a midsummer night into a fairyland of tiny, brilliant twinkling lights"[2] rather than being considered pests.[6] Discovering there was a species of firefly with the taxon pennsylvanica, and no other U.S. state had adopted a firefly as its state insect, the students began their campaign to have P. pennsylvanica made Pennsylvania's state insect.[2][6]

With advice and support from state legislators, the students began a campaign that included letter writing, the circulation of petitions, and the distribution of bumper stickers. On April 10, 1974, Governor Milton J. Shapp signed their bill, making the Pennsylvania firefly their state's official insect. A few years later, Highland Park Elementary School was presented with a bronze plaque in honor of the students' achievement.[6]

According to one source,[citation needed] Pennsylvanians best know fireflies as "lightning bugs", and may have confused "firefly" with "black fly" when that state was plagued by them in 1988.[5] This might be why that year the legislature again confirmed the Pennsylvania firefly's official status and specified it by scientific name so that:

The Firefly is the state insect, as enacted by the General Assembly on April 10, 1974. Act 130 of December 5, 1988, designated the particular species of firefly, "Poturis Pensylvanica De Geer" as the official state insect.[7]

The firefly is also the state insect of Tennessee, but in this case the specific species referred to (if any) may be Photinus pyralis, the most common species of firefly in North America.[8]

One-second exposure of fireflies flashing in a field in Indiana County, Pennsylvania

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "beetles". 2010-02-12. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Pennsylvania State Insect - Firefly". Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  3. ^ "Insects and Beetles". Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  4. ^ a b "NatureServe Explorer Species Index: Genus Photuris". Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  5. ^ a b SHG Resources. "Pennsylvania Symbols, Insect: Firefly". SHG Resources. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Text Only Version". Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  7. ^ "State Insect". Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  8. ^ "Tennessee State Insect - Firefly". Retrieved 2012-02-15.