Fireflies (or lightning bugs) are not really flies at all - they are a type of beetle. If you live on the eastern side of the U.S. where it is warm and humid, there is a good chance that these bugs will be out at night during the summer. Try catching a few and observing them up close. You can stay in your own backyard, or go to a park or field nearby. Bring an adult to help you.
Note: If there are no fireflies where you live, you can observe beetles during the day. Use a jar with a paper towel secured with a rubber band as a Beetle Viewer, and hunt for beetles in grass, on trees, or crawling in dirt. Release the beetle back where you found it after you have looked closely using a magnifying glass.
Different kinds of lightning bugs have different flash patterns. Some blinked and winked quickly, while others lit up fewer times, but for longer. Are there many different types of lightning bugs where you live, do you think? Try this experiment on a different night and see what happens. Beetles are fascinating to observe - and there are so many different kinds all around us!
Use this worksheet to make a beetle with moving parts! You will also need 4 brass brads and an adult to help you. You might already know that beetles have three body parts and six legs. They also have some other special features that make them different from other insects. The beetle on the worksheet is a Darkling beetle, but all beetles have similar body parts and the same unique features.
Most flying insects have one pair of wings (butterflies have two - can you think of any others?). All beetles have two pairs of wings. The first pair is very thin, which works great for flying, but can be broken easily. That is why beetles also have a second pair of wings that is hard and thick, and makes a great protection for this fascinating bug. The inside wings actually fold up inside the tough outside wings on the beetle's abdomen when it is not flying. Some beetles don't use their wings very much. The Darkling beetle only uses its wings when it needs to fly long distances to find food.
Another feature of the Darkling beetle is on its head. Do you see the two short things sticking out near the antennae? These are part of the insect's jaw, called a mandible. You might have also noticed the tiny eyes on the Darkling beetle. Beetles have small compound eyes that are usually at the very front of their head. Beetles can see directly in front and above without moving their head. They use their antennae to help sense what is on each side of them.