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Life cycle and behaviour of the aquatic firefly Luciola leii (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) from Mainland China1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 April 2012

Xinhua Fu
Institute of Insect Resources, Department of Plant Science and Technology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, 430070, China
Ohba Nobuyoshi
OHBA Firefly Institute, 4-1-12-204 Maborikaigan, Yokosuka City, 239-0801 Japan
Fredric V. Vencl
Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794-5245, United States of America; The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Ancon, Balboa, Panama
Chaoliang Lei*
Institute of Insect Resources, Department of Plant Science and Technology, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, 430070, China
2Corresponding author (e-mail:


The aquatic larvae of the firefly Luciola leii Fu and Ballantyne occur on the substrate of rice fields and ditches in Hubei Province of central China. The behaviour and ecology of L. leii are described. We recorded L. leii larvae attacking four species of aquatic snails: Lymnaea stagnalis (L.) (Basommatophora: Lymnaeidae), Gyraulus convexiusculus (Hutton) (Basommatophora: Planorbidae), Radix auricularia (L.) (Lymnaeidae), and Bellamya purificata Heude (Mesogastropoda: Viviparidae). At dusk, flying males produced two types of advertising flashes. One type consisted of a train of 8 rapid, green flashes followed by 2–3 slow, prolonged flashes produced by patrolling males as a long-distance signal. The duration of flashes in the patrolling pattern was 530 ms and the interflash interval was 80 ms. The other type was a short-range signal consisting of a green glow, which was emitted by flying males that had located a female. Once a female had been located, the male landed and switched to a courting pattern. The male courtship pattern consisted of single flashes of about 400 ms duration, delivered every 1.8 s. Females produced single answering flashes of 910 ms duration, with a latency of approximately 630 ms after the male flash. Luciola leii was univoltine. Females oviposited 1 to 7 times (mean = 4.78). Females laid, on average, 187.19 eggs. The eggs hatched at 21.52 days. Eggs became luminescent 4 or 5 days before hatching. The larval stage had six instars. Mature larvae climbed onto land to construct pupal cells at the end of April of the next year. The pupal stage lasted, on average, 4.88 days. The imago lasted 10.13 days. No predators of larvae were observed. The spider Tetragnatha praedonia Koch (Araneae: Tetragnathidae) was frequently observed to capture adult male fireflies in its web.


Les larves aquatiques de la luciole Luciola leii Fu et Ballantyne se retrouvent sur les substrats des rizières et des fossés dans la province de Hu-pei dans le centre de la Chine. Nous décrivons le comportement et l'écologie de L. leii. Nous avons observé les larves de L. leii attaquer quatre espèces de gastéropodes aquatiques, Lymnaea stagnalis (L.) (Basommatophora: Lymnaeidae), Gyraulus convexiusculus (Hutton) (Basommatophora: Planorbidae), Radix auricularia (L.) (Lymnaeidae) et Bellamya purificata Heude (Mesogastropoda: Viviparidae). Au crépuscule, les mâles en vol produisent deux types de signaux lumineux. Un premier type consiste en une séquence de 8 signaux verts et rapides, suivis de 2–3 signaux lents prolongés; c'est une signalisation à longue distance produite par les mâles en patrouille. La durée des signaux dans la signalisation de patrouille est de 530 ms et l'intervalle entre les signaux de 80 ms. Le second type est une signalisation de proximité qui consiste en une lueur verte émise par les mâles en vol qui ont découvert une femelle. Une fois la femelle repérée, le mâle se pose et initie un comportement de cour. Ce comportement du mâle consiste en l'émission à toutes les 1,8 s environ de signaux lumineux isolés d'une durée d'à peu près 400 ms. Les femelles émettent un seul signal d'une durée de 910 ms après une période de latence d'environ 630 ms en réponse aux signaux du mâle. Les femelles pondent 1 à 7 fois, pour une moyenne de 4,78 fois et elles déposent en moyenne 187,19 oeufs. Les oeufs éclosent après 21,52 jours. Ils deviennent luminescents 4 ou 5 jours avant l'éclosion. La vie larvaire comporte six stades. Les larves matures montent sur la terre ferme pour y construire leur cellule nymphale. Le stade nymphal dure en moyenne 4,88 jours et la vie adulte 10,13 jours. Nous n'avons observé aucun prédateur des larves. L'araignée Tetragnatha praedonia Koch (Araneae: Tetragnathidae) capture souvent des lucioles adultes mâles dans sa toile.

[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Copyright © Entomological Society of Canada 2006

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Contribution No. 1130 from the Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University.


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