Thursday Salute to Originals: Fireflies in Unison

In our backlit projects, syncing lighting performance between multiple fixture modules, to building management systems, or to an outside trigger (i.e. elevator call lanterns illuminating based on the floor the elevator is on) is very typical. Though technically and programming intensive, truth be told, it’s the kind of geeky challenge our techs love. But all that synchronization takes precise planning, wiring, and encoding; all those lights don’t work in smooth unison together by pure magic. Sometimes it would be nice if things synced up automatically without any of that intensive programming, but unfortunately, we aren’t that lucky. But there is one summer insect that has lighting synchronization all figured out – and all without a strand of wire or second of technical encoding!


Fireflies are a telltale sign summer has arrived.  Producing illumination in their abdomens via bioluminescence, these are the bugs responsible for the sporadic flashes that you see emerging from the grass on those muggy summer evenings. But the Photinus carolinus species, native to only a handful of places around the world, isn’t just your ordinary lightning bug. These fireflies have a special ability to sync their lighting patterns to one another, glowing in astonishing unison.


Male lightning bugs, no matter the particular type, use specific flashing patterns to attract a female mate. Male fireflies of the Photinus carolinus species, however, have elected to synchronize their flashing patterns – flashing for several seconds, then pausing for an interval, then flashing again – in what scientists theorize this is a way to minimize the visual clutter of more chaotic, untimed flashing, making it easier to attract a mate. What a clever way to pick up the ladies! Watch the clips below and see just how perfectly timed their wooing flashes are.

For making lighting synchronization look completely effortless, we salute the male Photinus carolinus firefly. Their synchronized courtship flash dance certainly changes the definition of what it means to be a wingman!

Image Credits: Amusing PlanetLifegate