Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- LIGHTNING BUGS

You're a child in the mountains of Kentucky and the sun is setting above the western ridge. You've spent the summer day playing games, going fishing on the Cumberland River, walking or riding your bike to meet up with friends, reading a book, or another way of whiling away a steamy summer day.

With the setting of the sun, though, comes one of your favorite activities. Catching LIGHTNING BUGS. You get an empty Avon jar from your mother or a mason jar. I liked the Avon jars best because they were usually translucent white, pink, or another color and when you put your LIGHTNING BUGS inside, the entire jar glowed.

Giggles filled the growing darkness as you and your friends rushed across the yard to locate the last flash you saw and swoop up another LIGHTNING BUG.

One thing I learned quickly about LIGHTNING BUGS--they stink. When you get them on your fingers, your hands stink like crazy. But it didn't matter. We ran across a lot of stinky things in the mountains.

LIGHTNING BUGS are blessings
After you gather your jar of LIGHTNING BUGS, you sit in the grass or on the porch swing, while other flying bugs are attracted to you from your sweat and take a bite out of you, and watch the miraculous show from a little bug.

When boredom sets in and you are tired of the biting bugs, someone comes up with a great idea--making sidewalk art out of the LIGHTNING BUGS.

Now I hate to admit I participated in this activity. It's a shame. It's also probably one reason why we don't have as many LIGHTNING BUGS these days as we did back then.

Usually, a boy started the whole thing by taking a LIGHTNING BUG and smearing its glowing tail across the concrete, road, or front porch. I admit it was pretty to see it glow like neon glitter. But, it also meant the death of a LIGHTNING BUG. The evening darkness helped us ignore that part of it. We wanted to see the pretty glow.

When mamas called the children inside for the night to take a bath and wash off the grime of the day, I often took my jar inside and placed it beside my bed so I could watch them flash as I drifted off to sleep. My nightlight. The next day, I took my LIGHTNING BUGS outside and released them to flash again.

Recently, my first book of Appalachian Fiction sold. The publishing company's name is Firefly Southern Fiction. I thought that only fitting. I recently celebrated my dream-come-true by purchasing a new pair of earrings. LIGHTNING BUGS, of course.

Did you catch LIGHTNING BUGS as a child? Did you slime the sidewalk with LIGHTNING BUG essence and murder them? Did you teach your children about the glories of LIGHTNING BUGS?

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  1. Loved seeing the lightning bugs! We had so much fun running around in the dark up in Michigan, seeing and catching the lighting bugs. Also saw them when camping in the mountains.

  2. I miss those days, don't you? The simple things are the best.

  3. Thanks for the memories.....oh yes I caught them and then released them. So much fun back then and now it's relaxing just to watch the air light up with lightning bugs.

    1. Are you saying you're about the only person on earth who didn't massacre the lightning bugs? lol

  4. I'm a self declared firefly sanctuary. Don't worry, your murderous little games aren't the reason there are fewer lightning bugs today - it's actually because lawn care today is destroying their food source. Lightning bug babies eat slugs and need them to grow into lightning bugs, but lawn chemicals and close cropped mowing is destroying the slugs habitats and therefore the lightning bugs. We don't use any sprays or chemicals in our lawn and leave our grass long. When we bought this place there were no fireflies, now I see them every eve. Not as thick as I remember them, but we will get there. You can help too - have your lawn care contractor raise his mower blades to leave the grass a little longer, and ask him not to spray pesticides on your lawn. Happy lightning bug watching!

  5. This is great to know. I see some lightning bugs in the back where it is wooded, but very few in my yard. I don't have any chemicals sprayed on my lawn, except for the treatment for ants. With the rain we've had this summer, my grass is always tall.

  6. It takes time to reestablish the population. This year I can count 10 in a minute, up from 3 in a minute last year, and almost none the year before. Keep doing good!

  7. So glad your efforts have shown progress. I would love to have thousands in my yard. I love to see them sparkle.