Friday, July 18, 2008

fire flies over the Rejang - Will they come back again?

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My old friend quoted a Foochow kiddies' rhyme about fire flies bringing back a flood of heart warming memories.(Hui nang yin, hui nang yin......)

Again I am back in Sg. Maaw where I spent most of my school holidays with my cousins.It was a period of idyllic splendour, a time of care-free exploitation of nature, and a time of wonder. Tapping rubber and processing it was part of daily routine which we enjoyed because at the end of the day we had food on the proverbial table. Smoking rubber was a wonderful process because we could work almost twenty four hours and our help was appreciated. There was this hum of good work done that warmed the spirits and spurred us on. We would never be disappointed if we worked hard. Pigs feeding in the sties, norting away make us smile with satisfaction that we had something going and our life was just so good.

In the evenings apart from telling stories under the brilliant light of a kerosene lamp, we sometimes would go out to the jetty and watch the fire flies. There were lots of them. We could catch them and put them in bottles to watch them at close range. Going back to class when school reopened I proudly showed my science teacher what I caught. But alas the fire flies would not shine at night. I probably only caught a few fire flies of the same sex.

If only I could see the fire flies come flying again . I won't be afraid of the ghosts which came with them.

I remember now that the fire flies disappeared slowly as I grew older. After a few years because of urban development, they became fewer and fewer. Finally when I was in upper secondary school, no one could ever see a single fire fly over the Rejang River any more.

I went to Kuala Selangor not too long ago to enjoy the Kelip Kelip or fire flies. But they were no match to the wonderful light display I saw over the Rejang River when I was young, innocent and learning from underneath the rubber trees.

Today with all the knowledge available in the Internet, I have acquired the secrets of the fire flies. They are no longer the lamps of the ghosts who come around to avenge their untimely deaths.

Not too long ago some fire flies were seen in Pasai Siong in Sibu. That gave the residents there something to talk about. But again when original jungles are cleared out completely the fire flies disappear forever.

Fire flies thus can only be found in pristine jungles where clear waters flow as these very delicate beetles can only mate in pure atmospheric conditions. Food for thought there.

The Rejang has therefore lost its mysterious fire flies.

source from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lampyridae is a family in the beetle order Coleoptera, members of which are commonly called fireflies, lightning bugs or (ambiguously) "glow worms" due to their conspicuous nocturnal (or, more accurately, crepuscular) use of bioluminescence to attract mates or prey. Fireflies are capable of producing a "cold light" containing no ultraviolet or infrared rays, with a wavelength from 510 to 670 nanometers, pale reddish, yellowish or green in colour, with a lighting efficiency of up to 96%[citation needed].

There are more than 2000 species of firefly found in temperate and tropical environments around the world. Many species can be found in marshes or in wet, wooded areas where their larvae have abundant sources of food.

Fireflies in the woods near Nuremberg, Germany

Light production in fireflies is due to a chemical reaction that occurs in specialized light-emitting organs, usually on the lower abdomen called bioluminescence. The enzyme luciferase acts on luciferin in this organ to stimulate light emission. Genes coding for these substances have been inserted into many different organisms (see Luciferase - Applications). Luciferase is also used in forensics, and the enzyme has medical uses.

For adult beetles, it is primarily used to locate other individuals of the same species for reproduction. Many species, especially in the genus Photinus, are distinguished by the unique courtship flash patterns emitted by flying males in search of females. Photinus females generally do not fly, but give a flash response to males of their own species.

Bioluminescence is a very efficient process. Some 90% of the energy a firefly uses to create light is actually converted into visible light. By comparison, an incandescent electric bulb can convert only 10 percent of total energy used into visible light, and the remainder is emitted as heat.

Firefly larvaTropical fireflies, particularly in Southeast Asia (Thailand and Malaysia), routinely synchronize their flashes among large groups, a startling example of spontaneous biological order. This phenomenon occurs through the night along river banks in the Malaysian jungles every day of the year. Current hypotheses about the causes of this behavior involve diet, social interaction, and altitude. In the United States, one of the most famous sightings of fireflies blinking in unison occurred near Elkmont, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains during the second week of June 2005[1]. Congaree National Park in South Carolina is another host to the phenomenon [2].

Female Photuris fireflies are known for mimicking the mating flashes of other fireflies for the sole purpose of predation. Target males are attracted to what appears to be a suitable mate, and are then eaten. For this reason the Photuris female is sometimes referred to as "femme fatale".

Many fireflies do not produce light. Usually these species are diurnal, or day-flying, such as those in the genus Ellychnia. A few diurnal fireflies that primarily inhabit shadowy places, such as beneath tall plants or trees, are luminescent. One such genus is Lucidota.

In East Asia, the ancient Chinese sometimes captured fireflies in transparent or semi-transparent containers and used them as (short-term) lanterns[citation needed]. Some species of the genus Luciola (hotaru, 蛍) rival the famous sakura cherry blossoms as regards their significance in Japanese culture and folklore[citation needed].

The spectacular synchronized flashing by Pteroptyx and other Luciolinae fireflies has potential economic significance. Notably on the Selangor River at Kampong Kuantan (close to Kuala Selangor, Malaysia), it has become a major attraction for tourists, creating considerable revenue for the local economy.

Source :Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit charity.


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