Milky Way on earth: Spotting fireflies around the Island 火金姑「放閃」 來看螢火蟲漫天飛舞

Wed, Apr 11, 2018 - Page 14

Fireflies, commonly known as “hue kim goo” (fire gold lady) in Taiwanese, can usually be seen starting after the end of the Ching Ming Festival. Mid-April to late-May is the time in the year that we get to see the most fireflies — often in the mountains and farms across Taiwan.

There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies known to exist around the world, of which more than 60 species can be found in Taiwan. Fireflies live only in places with clean water and low light pollution: there needs to be the right surrounding ecological environment with clean river water.

Grass in woodland areas tends to contain many snails, which are the favorite food of firefly larvae. In March and April, adult fireflies will emerge and fly out in the evening to attract mates.

Increasing urban development and the use of pesticides have severely damaged their ecological environment so that seeing fireflies has become something of a luxury.

The glow from a firefly

Adult fireflies emit light through a light emitter in their abdomen. The glow from the light emitter is composed of a combination of light-emitting cells at the end of the abdomen. Upon contact with oxygen, a reduction-oxidation reaction (redox) occurs to produce light.

Each species of firefly emits light of different color and frequency. For example, a Taiwan Pyrocoelia analis glows with continuous yellow-green light, while the Aquatica ficta Olivier emits twinkling yellow light.

The firefly’s light flashes at a specific rhythm — it is the language they use to communicate with others, as well as a means for males to attract females to mate.

The glow behavior of fireflies also has additional functions including attracting, alerting and intimidating predators, providing illumination and camouflage.

Firefly viewing spots

Taipei City: Daan Forest Park, Ronxing Garden Park, Cui Lake in Muzha District

New Taipei City: Wen Sun Farm in Xindian District, Homei Trail and 53 other locations

Taoyuan City: Xiao Jing Ling Firefly Resort in Guishan District

Hsinchu County: Xinghai Firefly Area at Dongwo River in Neiwan Village

Miaoli County: Springcreek Hostel in Zhuolan Township, West Lake Resortopia in Sanyi Township, Firefly Farm in Tongxiao Township

Taichung City: Dongshih Forest Garden, Sijiaolin Coffee Farm

Nantou County: Four major firefly habitats (Sun Moon Lake, Aowanda, Guosing Township, and Chulu), Sun Link Sea Forest Recreation Area

Chiayi County: Meishan, Jhuci, Alisha, Jhongpu Townships

Tainan City: Meiling in Nanxi District, Guanshan in Nanhua District, Hsinhua Forest Farm

Kaohsiung City: Namasia District

Firefly observation tips

Flashlights should be covered with red cellophane to avoid harming the fireflies.

Never catch fireflies with your hands, as they will die if they are disturbed or touched.

The best time to observe fireflies is between 6pm and 8:30 pm.

(Translated by Lin Lee-kai)