A college student just discovered a brand new species of firefly. No bigs.
While most college students are out hunting for summer jobs and trying not to think about Fall semester, Josh Olivia is busy making super important discoveries in the insect world — and pretty much changing the bug landscape in Southern California. What’d he discover? A new type of firefly.
So, in case you didn’t know, fireflies are pretty rare in California. Well, over Mother’s Day, Josh and his mom decided to go for a hike (adorable) in Topanga Canyon. Josh was collecting other insects for a project at his school, UC Riverside, and while exploring the great outdoors he stumbled upon, yup, fireflies. Even just spotting said firefly is a super big deal.
Firefly expert Marc Branham of the University of Florida in Gainesville told the LA Times, “there are 18 known species of fireflies in California, compared with 56 species in Florida, and 2,200 described species worldwide.” So, for Josh to see one without trying is a bit of a etymological miracle.
In fact, Dr. Branham says, “West of western Kansas, it is very rare to see flashing fireflies, and even the ones that do glow can be very small and their glow can be so faint that it is difficult to see.” UC Riverside professor Doug Yanega backed up that point, explaining that over the past century of Riverside students and staff collecting insects, they’ve only found 30 firefly specimen. 30! In 100 years.
Well it’s a mighty good thing Josh has a keen eye for such things, or this yet-to-be-named species would likely never have been #31.
Since the bug hasn’t officially been named yet, Josh has high hopes for what the firefly will be called. He told his local NBC News affiliate, “I wouldn’t want it named after me, I’d want it to be named after my mom. She’s the only reason I was even out there hiking on Mother’s Day, so if I had the opportunity I would have it named after her.” D’awww.
This flashing firefly’s light is so faint that it’s really hard to spot, unlike the bright lights of its East-coast cousins, who are known to light up a lawn as soon as the sun sets. Dr. Branham notes that the West coast species are, “bioluminescent only when they are in the larval stage. By the time they grow into adulthood, they no longer glow,” which is one of the reasons they’re so hard to see.
Well color us delighted and fully-impressed. A new firefly species found super casually? Pretty dope.
If you want to be like Josh and do a little SoCal bug-hunting, head toward a body of water. Fireflies prefer a wetter climate, and like to dine on a gourmet meal of snails. Happy hunting.
[Image via Shutterstock]