Lightning Bugs

Lightning bugs glow for a variety of reasons through a chemical reaction

Lightning bugs, fireflies, glowworms, or whatever else you may call them based on where you live, are beetles (not bugs) known for their summertime bioluminescent light shows. There is a great deal of diversity among lightning bug species. Most are nocturnal (but not all), most can create bioluminescent light (but not all). In some species both the males & females can glow (but in others only one or the other can glow). They also produce different colors (light green, yellow green, red), depending on the species.

Light show

Lightning bugs have a special organ to produce light, which happens when luciferin (a chemical compound) and luciferase (an enzyme) mix. Both luciferin & luciferase are named after Lucifer, which is the Latin name for the planet Venus meaning “light bringer”, because Venus can appear just before dawn in the night sky. Only later did Lucifer also come to mean Satan.

Why lightning bugs glow varies by species as well as age. In larvae they can glow as a warning to predators telling them “I don’t taste good, don’t eat me.” In adults it’s primarily for mating purposes. Adult males puts on a light show to attract females. Females reciprocate with a glow of their own.

It’s worth noting that the females of the Photuris genus of lightning bugs are known as the “femme fatale lightning bugs” because they imitate the light pattern of other species to attract & then eat the males. Of this genus, the species Photuris pensylvanica is the state insect of Pennsylvania.

The Hippos of Pablo Escobar

In the Colombian jungle, Escobar’s hippos wander.

During his reign as the head of the Medellín Cartel drug empire, Pablo Escobar’s net worth was in the tens of billions of dollars. As such, Escobar could & did purchase a variety of extravagant items. He also spread the money around the local community. The venn diagram of these types of spending overlap with his personal zoo.

In the 1980s Pablo Escobar built a zoo for himself at his countryside estate Hacienda Napoles. He allowed schoolchildren to see the animals on class trips. After Escobar was killed, and Hacienda Napoles was confiscated by the government, most of the animals were dispersed to other (actual) zoos. All of the animals found new homes except 4 hippos which continued to thrive and today have fruitfully multiplied to over 80 hippos. These wild Colombian hippos are becoming a real problem in the region because they aren’t easily contained to just one area, they eat and poop in large quantities, they don’t have many predators, and any solution to the problem (aside from killing them, which the general public doesn’t want) costs money that the government doesn’t want to spend.

Dogie, Not Doggy

In American Western slang, a dogie is a calf (not a dog).

The 1937 film Git Along Little Dogies features the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. He and others sing a variety of classic western songs such as Red River Valley, She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain, Oh! Susanna, and others. They even sing some of them as a medley with lyrics on the screen for the audience to sing along.

The movie’s title though, may leave some wondering exactly what a “dogie” is. The movie was named for a song of the same name, which existed as early as 1893. In the American West a dogie is slang for a stray or motherless calf. Nobody is exactly sure where the term came from but in the book Western Words, author Ramon Adams speculates that because small calves who are weened from their mothers too soon are unable to properly digest coarse grass, the resulting swelling of their bellies resembled a batch of sourdough starter in a sack. This became “dough-guts” and eventually just “dogies.”