About Glow Worms

Glow Worm Facts

Glow Worms are pretty fascinating animals! Sometimes known as fireflies or lightening bugs, they are not worms at all. They are actually adult beetles, or their insect larvae (maggots). The largest colony is found across Australia and New Zealand with 8 known species. The Glow worm population is a unique and special part of our ecosystems.

Glow worms live in dark, wet environments, preferably in glowworm 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.

Location map of glow worm colonies

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 availability of food.

Description of the Glow Worm

Glow worm larvae have segmented bodies and six legs at the head end. When they move, they often use their tails to help them, which makes them look very similar to caterpillars. The adult males are medium-sized insects, segmented and elongated, often with long antennae.

The females often look very similar to the larvae, but in many species they are more flattened than the males and do not have wings which means they're unable to fly. In both the larvae and adults, the light-producing organs are in the last few tail segments of the body. Both larvae and adults can be a range of colors such as black, brown, yellow, green, or red.

glow worm close-up

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 which have bioluminescent properties including:

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.

 close up of a glow worm

All images on this page are copyright to Anthony O'Toole.  Written permission must be gained before use. 
* 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

frog hollow brochure iconglow worm brochure icondocument clip art情况说明书 /萤火虫之旅导游指南

Glow Worm's are really just the larva of the Fungus Gnat, which goes through a 4 stage life cycle; a whole transformation from egg to larva, to pupa, to adult (pictured below). 

The Lifecycle of a Glow Worm

Lifecycle of a Glow Worm

Glow Worm Close Up

Glow Worm Cave Tamborine Mountain

Looking for more information on Glow Worms? Whether you have a school project or you're just interested to find out more about these fascinating creatures, we've put together a list of educational resources to help you.

* Bugs Ed provides a range of hands-on workshops, run by a qualified entomologist, to encourage and expand interest in insects. They come to you! For more information, insect fact sheets & activities, or resources for teachers, check out the Bugs Ed website.

If you would like to recommend a link to add to our collection please email us.

Of course, another way to learn about Glow Worms is to visit us for an informative tour through our Glow Worm Cave. Make a day of it and tour the Gold Coast Hinterland.

Contact us to make a booking today.




Go to top
Booking Now