Synchronous Flashing in Fireflies

The wings are on and it’s starting to look more like the real thing.

Some male fireflies flash in sync over large areas. This species is apparently the only in the United States that does it. They can light up whole forests or hillsides with waves of synchronous display.

I found a recent explanation of the phenomenon here, but I’m not sure I understand it fully. Males fly around flashing to attract the females’ attention. The experiment showed that the females’ response rate was 10% or less with asynchronous flashing but over 80% if in sync. And if I’m reading it correctly, this suggests that it’s easier for females to track the movement of specific males when in sync, since out of sync “the female would see a cluttered landscape of unrecognizable flashes”.

I got to see some synchronous flashing myself last month. Japan’s GenjiBotaru does it too, though it wasn’t over a large area. I saw gangs of five to ten fireflies flying in groups and flashing in perfect sync. Lucky, since I was planning to incorporate it into my story.

Firefly Head Model

No luck finding a dead firefly yet, so I’m having to rely on whatever resources I can scrape from the internet. Luckily I found this fantastic image of a head. There’s only the one angle, and it’s impossible to see what’s going on behind those tusk-like structures, but it’s enough for a decent model for close-ups. I’ll add more detail with displacement and other maps.

I didn’t know insect mouths were so complex. Click here for an excellent description and interactive guide.

Firefly Photography #1

I think I’m going to need some practice. I took the camera out this evening and made a first attempt at photographing fireflies.

You set the camera to manual focus at infinity and open the lens up. Then you shoot multiple exposures at a reasonable ISO for a good few seconds. I chose ISO400 for 15 seconds and took about 20 photos. Back home, you import the images into Photoshop and set all the layers to Screen. This allows the trails to be overlayed without the background becoming too bright. Here’s the best result of four attempts ….

Continue reading Firefly Photography #1

Luciola cruciata

The fireflies are out in force now.

I’ve been too busy to do anything these last two weeks, but this evening I took a walk out. This is “Luciola cruciata”, or ゲンジボタル (GenjiBotaru). I was illuminating it with a red light. That’s why the colours are off.

From tomorrow, I’ll be out most days trying to get a feel for how they move. I’ll also be trying to get some decent reference photos for modelling, although my camera is at its limits in the dark and up against tiny objects.

I’d like to get the firefly model finished by the end of the month.

Bothrogonia ferruginea (Fabricius)

How much easier this would be if it was a photo blog. One click and there’s your post. Instead, I have to spend hours moving round vertices, turning edges, extruding polygons before I have something to show for my effort. Graphic software has come on leaps and bounds, but there will always be bucketloads of unglamorous spade work to do.

I’m having difficulty finding good reference material for modelling the firefly. The genus I need to make is one of the typical japanese varieties – ゲンジボタル (GenjiBotaru) or “Luciola cruciata”. I should be able to go around picking up dead ones next month. In the meantime, I thought I’d take some insect photos to get in the mood.

This one is called “Bothrogonia ferruginea (Fabricius)” (ツマグロオオヨコバイ) and it landed on my wife’s shoulder this afternoon. I used an old Ricoh CX-1. It has a pretty decent macro mode for such a small camera.