Glow Worm Facts
Glow Worms are pretty fascinating animals! Glow worms are actually fly larvae that glow in the dark to attract and catch small insects. Glow worms are extremely useful in our Australian ecosystems because they help control insect populations. They are found across Australia and New Zealand with 9 known species.
Glow worms live in dark, wet environments, preferably in caves if they can find them, although on the Gold Coast of Queensland, they don't have any caves to live in, so the local species, Arachnocampa flava are usually found beside waterfalls.
What are Glow Worms?
Glow worms are the larvae (immature stage) of a small fly. The larval stage is the only stage in their life cycle that can glow. The adults are delicate flies that do not have working mouthparts, and as such, only live for a small number of days (females two days, males six days). As the adults are unable to feed, glow worms must gain enough sustenance during the larval stage to get them through the rest of their lifecycle. The larvae are believed to live for approximately one year, although this is heavily dependent on environmental conditions and the availability of food.
Why Do Glow Worms Glow?
Glow worms have a luminescent glow called bioluminescence or glowing light, to attract small insects that emerge from the leaf litter and water to where the glow worms reside. The glow worms construct "snares" (like a spider's web) made from silk threads and sticky droplets to capture and eat the insects attracted to their glow.
How Do Glow Worms Glow?
The light of a glow worm is also known as bioluminescence or light produced by a living organism. There are many different animals that have bioluminescent properties including:
- Fireflies, glow worms and other insect larvae
- Arachnids (spiders)
- Annelids (ringed worms)
- Some deep-sea fish and squid
- And certain varieties of bacteria and fungi
The light Glow Worms emit is produced by a chemical reaction. A pigment called "luciferin" reacts with the enzyme "luciferase" and adenosine triphosphate (also called ATP*) and with the oxygen in the air to create the blue-green light that you see the glow worms emitting in our cave.
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* ATP molecules are found in all living cells. ATP molecules make any energy-consuming actions (running, jumping, moving fingers etc) possible by storing the energy obtained by food and releasing it when needed. ATP is a necessary part of the reaction needed to create the light a glow worm produces