223 pages, 50 colour photos and illustrations, 8 b/w illustrations, 6 colour distribution maps
For centuries, the beauty of fireflies has evoked wonder and delight. Yet for most of us, fireflies remain shrouded in mystery: How do fireflies make their light? What are they saying with their flashing? And what do fireflies look for in a mate? In Silent Sparks, noted biologist and firefly expert Sara Lewis dives into the fascinating world of fireflies and reveals the most up-to-date discoveries about these beloved insects. From the meadows of New England and the hills of the Great Smoky Mountains, to the rivers of Japan and mangrove forests of Malaysia, this beautifully illustrated and accessible book uncovers the remarkable, dramatic stories of birth, courtship, romance, sex, deceit, poison, and death among fireflies.
The nearly two thousand species of fireflies worldwide have evolved in different ways – and while most mate through the aerial language of blinking lights, not all do. Lewis introduces us to fireflies that don't light up at all, relying on wind-borne perfumes to find mates, and we encounter glow-worm fireflies, whose plump, wingless females never fly. We go behind the scenes to meet inquisitive scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding fireflies, and we learn about various modern threats including light pollution and habitat destruction. In the last section of Silent Sparks, Lewis provides a field guide for North American fireflies, enabling us to identify them in our own backyards and neighborhoods. This concise, handy guide includes distinguishing features, habits, and range maps for the most commonly encountered fireflies, as well as a gear list.
A passionate exploration of one of the world's most charismatic and admired insects, Silent Sparks will inspire us to reconnect with the natural world.
"With stunning illustrations and accessible text, Silent Sparks takes readers on a guided tour into the hidden world of fireflies. This book explores the wonders of their coded light messages and reveals what has been learned about these beloved beetles through the sleuthing of researchers. Their scientific discoveries bring new awe to the flashing spectacle and love song of fireflies, readily found in fields and forests every summer."
– Bernd Heinrich, author of The Homing Instinct
"Silent Sparks makes you want to drop whatever you're doing and devote yourself to learning everything you can about the charismatic, even enlightening, firefly. Sara Lewis, the leading expert on these amazing insects, shows that the night doesn't belong to us – it belongs to fireflies, whose dramatic lives are revealed with humor, insight, and passion."
– Marlene Zuk, author of Paleofantasy
"A brilliant biologist, Sara Lewis exudes the curiosity and sheer joy that comes from exploring and celebrating the science of life. It is a great gift to us that she decided long ago to study fireflies and in this marvelous book she reveals a world of wonder that will leave all readers breathless with awe."
– Wade Davis, explorer-in-residence of the National Geographic Society
"Silent Sparks is a beautifully written ode to fireflies and their behavior by someone who has made major research discoveries about these fascinating creatures. A combination of personal stories and information on how to study and identify fireflies, this is a book everyone can enjoy."
– John Alcock, Regents' Professor Emeritus of Biology, Arizona State University
"I found Silent Sparks to be rewarding on so many fronts. Looking at one of nature's most charismatic and deeply loved critters, Sara Lewis provides us with an enjoyable, informative tour into the lives of fireflies. Her engaging book will be accessible to broad audiences within and outside of biology."
– Douglas J. Emlen, author of Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle
Chapter 1 Silent Sparks 1
Chapter 2 Lifestyles of the Stars 13
Chapter 3 Splendors in the Grass 28
Chapter 4 With This Bling, I Thee Wed 45
Chapter 5 Dreams of Flying 61
Chapter 6 The Making of a Flasher 80
Chapter 7 Poisonous Attractions 100
Chapter 8 Lights Out for Fireflies? 119
Field Guide to Common Fireflies 145
Stepping Out – Further Firefly Adventures 166
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Sara Lewis, who has been captivated by fireflies for nearly three decades, is a professor in the Department of Biology at Tufts University. Her work has been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Scientific American, and USA Today. Lewis lives with her husband in Lincoln, Massachusetts.