Monday, August 10, 2009


Despite the coolness of these summer evenings, the fireflies have returned in abundance. They have been one of the delights of lazy summer nights for centuries.

They bring adults and children together for catching firefles is an activity that has passed with enthusiasm from generation to generation.

The firefly is actually a night-flying beetle that uses its phosphorescent light to attract a mate and of course children.

Scientists have figured out that the lighting mechanism of the firefly is a bioluminescence and important in research. They also know it is very difficult to raise them in captivity and scientists don’t have the time to go out and catch them.

Enter the Sigma Chemical Company of Saint Louis, Missouri.

Every summer for many years the Sigma folks recruited hundreds of kids from a number of states to capture fireflies. The company supplied the nets and a special storage can that killed and dried the insects.

When the cans were full the kids mailed them to the company and Sigma paid a penny for each firefly they received.

The company once reported that got about two million lightning bugs each season.

Sigma processed the bugs and sent them to hospitals and research labs. Bioluminescence helps researchers determine how well muscle fibers are working and can measure radiation doses more accurately that many instruments.

Some kids sent in 25-thousand fireflies. They got a ten-dollar bonus.

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