Snappy Fireflies

After the Gamboa Talk, I shadowed Peter’s work in the Field. He is about to launch into his official experimentation, and is spotting a couple more trees to use in his tests. While the jungle is full of cecropia trees, only a certain small demographic can fit into the constraints of Peter’s experiment. Some factors are due to the theories being tested by the experiment itself (the tree needs to have a healthy, mature colony living inside it), and also due to physical limitations (if the tree is too tall, he can’t reach the leaves to perform the experiments).

The night dropped quickly out in the jungle, and we, still full of energy from the weekend, decided to just keep driving as the pipeline road grew narrower and narrower.

Peter stopped the car at one point when he saw a large flashing bug. We hopped out of the car and I grabbed it. It gave me a startle as it started snapping hard into my hand (with about the strength of a human flicking). Soon the lightning beetles were flying in from all over the depths of the woods, drifting silently out of the darkness.

I started filling my hands with the snapping fireflies as they descended upon our truck. They were as long as a stick of gum, and had not only the brightest luminescent abdomens I had ever seen, but also additional different colored “running lights” on their shoulders.

We took the vial back to the ridge, and showed off our catch. Then we setup a camera and recorded some long exposures of them crawling over us as we let them go.


This experience inspired another performance which we will perform (and describe) later.