Chris Reid, a research scientist specialising in beetles at the museum, says the Blue Mountains firefly is found in rainforests all the way up to the Queensland border and is one of 25 species in the country.
Their light is created by chemical reactions in organs in the abdomen of the beetles, aptly known as lanterns. Oxygen reacts with a certain pigment, luciferin, with the rate of the pulse set by the enzyme luciferase, according to Melbourne University.
The light helps potential mates find each other at night, with individuals of some species synchronising their flashes to confuse predators – much to the enjoyment of those human observers lucky to catch the display.
Dr Reid said a lengthy drought and bushfires may mean it’s a while before the habitat favoured by the Blue Mountains firefly recovers.
“It could take three or four years to get back to the numbers we had 10 years ago,” he said.
Longer term, the threat of drier and hotter conditions across south-eastern Australia from climate change may place a dimmer on the fireflies’ future.
“It’s got to be sensitive to that sort of thing,” Dr Reid said.