Fireflies may be the quintessential East Coast and Midwest bug, but some glowing nocturnal beetles also call Southern California their home.
Recently a new species of firefly was discovered in SoCal by an undergraduate student at University of California, Riverside who was investigating the wildlands of Topanga for his semester’s insect collection requirement.
According to Entomology Today, the student, Joshua Oliva, brought the half a centimeter long beetle to the attention of Doug Yanega, senior scientist at the university’s Entomology Research Museum. “He wasn’t 100 percent certain it was a firefly and brought it to me for confirmation. I know the local fauna well enough that within minutes I was able to tell him he had found something entirely new to science. I don’t think I’ve seen a happier student in my life.”
While sounding more poetic, fireflies are really beetles with a luminescent organ. When found in SoCal – and it’s pretty rare when they discovered – fireflies are in very small populations located near springs and water seeps.
Since SoCal fireflies have such a specialized habitat, Yanega stresses the importance that this discovery may merit further investigation. “…it seems likely that this beetle may be highly restricted in distribution and the habitat when it occurs may require consideration for some level of protection, at least until we can learn more about it,” he says.
So while the SoCal skies won’t light up with copious luminescent critters, it’s safe to say that there still are mysteries here yet to be discovered.