Into The Outdoors - Fireflies

Just the day before this is being written, I spotted my first firefly of the year.  Nothing is more a part of a summer night around these parts than the good old “lightning bug,” as most of us call them. Since many folks find themselves, for various reasons, outside at night, it might be fun to take a little look at these critters, which delighted so many of us as small children.  

Ironically, fireflies are not really flies at all, but beetles.  All of them belong to the family Lampyridae, but those found in this area and, in fact, from Manitoba to Texas, are named the Pennsylvania Firefly. The scientific name, for those who are into that sort of thing, is Photuris Pennsylvanicanus. They are found in open woods, meadows and yards. The eggs are concealed on the ground and the larvae hatch in the spring. After the summer and fall, they spend the winter in the pupal stage, just below the surface, emerging as adults from early summer until about late August. The eggs, larvae and pupae are all luminous. While the adults do not feed, the larvae feed on the larvae of several insect pests as well as slugs. Both the male and female have a flashing greenish light. The light is flashed every two or three seconds in flight, and is used as a means of attracting mates.

As kids, most of us sallied forth into the yard several times each summer and caught some of these insects.  We’d then poke some air holes in the lid of the jar, and sit staring with fascination at the little flashing lights. This wasn’t too good for the bugs, but it was fun for us.  Sometimes, we would make “jewelry,” which was even less fortunate for the poor little critters.

Here in this part of the state, we’re fortunate to have a potpourri of nature, including both flora and fauna, all around us.  Sometimes, I think we take them so much for granted that we fail to enjoy them.  That’s sad, as they’re really great.  

On another front, one of the most overlooked sports around these parts is hunting frogs.  The season on them comes in on July 1st and lasts through October.  I haven’t hunted frogs for many years, but, as kids, my friends and I used to spend a lot of time catching the critters, or shooting them with our Daisy BB guns.  Admittedly, we kids weren’t really aware of the rules of “froggin,” but there are some.  You can find out what you need to know by consulting the manual that comes with your fishing license.  There, you will find the restrictions on methodology, as well as the limits, etc.  

Frog legs are, of course, a genuine delicacy.  I’ve bought them a number of times in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, and they are rather expensive.  They taste unlike anything else I’ve ever eaten.  Here’s an easy way to skin them.  Just put the severed legs in the freezer for a little while.  Before they freeze solid, take them out and peel off the skin.  It will come right off with no trouble.

There are a number of ways to cook frog legs.  I still remember how my mother used to do it when I was a kid.  She would fry them in a cast iron skillet in butter, salting and peppering them lightly.  They were great.  Nowadays, I usually prepare them on the grill.  I’ve also had them numerous times in restaurants, but  none have ever tasted like those home cooked ones of Mom’s.  Perhaps it’s just that I was young then, and everything tasted better.

Recently, I saw a magazine article about turtles.  It negated a number of things I thought about the critters.  I will do the homework and share it with you next week.

Also, I had a visitor at my bird feeder that you’ll never guess. Not a bird, not a bear, not a squirrel, not a raccoon or possum. Stay tuned, and I’ll tell you next week.

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