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Bright spark Glow-worm named Animal of the Year for 2019

fireflies light up the night sky

Fireflies seeking mates light up in synchronised bursts.

(Keystone)

Swiss environmental organisation Pro Natura has named the glow-worm “Animal of the Year” in a bid to draw attention to the rapid decline of insect life worldwide.

The glow-worm, also known as the “big firefly,” is essentially a beetle that emits a steady glow, Pro Natura said in a statement on Thursday. It is the most common of four species of firefly found in Switzerland.

According to the nature preservation organisation, the firefly is still widespread in Switzerland. But, along with other insects, it is threatened by habitat destruction, pesticides and light pollution.

In Switzerland, 30,000 of the 36,000 known animal species known are insects. Their "miracle world" is falling apart at a frightening rate, writes Pro Natura. This has serious consequences for nature and humans.

The bioluminescent beetle enchants warm summer nights only at the twilight of its life. Before that, it spends about two years as a larva and, according to Pro Natura, feeds mainly on snails using brutal hunting methods.

Like mini crocodiles, the dark-brown larvae stalk their often much larger prey, kill them with poisonous bites and eat them in a day.

Landing beacons for love-hungry males

The bright finale takes place in the summer of the third year, when the larvae pupate and the adult fireflies hatch. Immediately, the females start glowing to lure a male lover to their mating spot of choice.

The illumination in the females' light organs is produced by a chemical reaction. The males, on the other hand, do not shine. They roam their habitat scanning for a flash of love.

The fireflies that cannot mate in time perish after two weeks without descendants as they are unable to go on eating.

Glow-worms can be found in many of Pro Natura's more than 700 nature reserves. These safe havens offer the glow-worms everything they need: diverse habitats, an intact snail fauna and dark nights.

Ever since 1998, Pro Natura has promoted an animal of the year


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