By Dan Shapley
Leading Scientist Says Lightning Bugs Are More And More Scarce
Few people could identify the word Lampyridae, or recognize that James Lloyd is North America's foremost expert on them. But speak the common names -- lightning bug, or firefly -- and suddenly Lloyd's words are important to everyone who delighted in the strange flashing of green-tinted pinpricks of light on summer nights. He was interviewed recently by The Charlotte Observer (N.C.). And Lloyd had a sad message about the bugs that he has made his life's work: They appear to be growing less numerous as suburban sprawl paves over their habitat. While there are no hard numbers to back him up, he's spent his life studying fireflies and recently completed research on a voluminous catalog of Lampyridae in North America. In the process of his study, he not only found that fireflies appear less numerous, but also that there is more diversity among them than previously thought: He increased the total number of species described by 41% to 170. The lightning bug is a case in point, when it comes to the conservation of species around the world. In five years of study, Lloyd managed to find a host of new species, and yet at the very time the light of science is for the first time shining on them, they are dwindling, and in some cases disappearing. The plethora of life on Earth is astounding and inspiring -- and still, to a great extent, untold -- and yet because a species does not have a name does not mean it is safely hidden.