(Photuris spp.)

firefly (Photuris sp.)
Photo by Alfredo Colon

Photuris is a genus of bioluminescent fireflies. There at least 64 Photuris species currently recognized worldwide, 50 species in North America north of Mexico, and at least 1 species in Minnesota.

The larvae live on the ground, under bark, and in moist swampy places. They are also bioluminescent. They are predators of snails, slugs, earthworms, and small insects. They paralyze and kill their prey, then pump chemicals through their jaws (mandibles) into the victim. The chemicals liquefy the tissues, which are then consumed.

Adults are found in spring and early summer. They are active at dusk and at night. During the day they can be found resting on vegetation.


Each species has its own distinctive courtship signal, distinguished by the number of flashes, the duration of each flash, and the interval between flashes. The female of one species, Photuris fairchildi, answers the flashes of males of other species, especially Photinus. When a male is attracted, she subdues and eats the unfortunate suitor. This is known as aggressive mimicry.


Adults are soft-bodied, flattened, elongate, and 5 16 to ¾ (8 to 20 mm) in length. When viewed from above, the head is often partly exposed, but it can be retracted defensively. The antennae are slender and thread-like, not saw-toothed.

The forewings (elytra) are leathery and are folded over the body when at rest. When folded, a small portion of the abdomen in the shoulder (humeral) area is exposed. This is only visible when viewed from the side. Called an incomplete elytral fold, this feature, along with the partially exposed head, distinguishes Photuris from similar Photinus fireflies.

The legs are long and slender but not compressed. The last part of each leg (tarsus), corresponding to the foot, has five segments, but the fourth segment is minute and is concealed within the lobes of the heart-shaped third segment, making it appear that there are only four segments. There is a pair of claws at the end of the last segment. The front half of each claw is split (cleft).


Distribution Map



7, 24, 27, 29, 30, 82.



Coleoptera (beetles)  


Polyphaga (water, rove, scarab, long-horned, leaf, and snout beetles)  




Elateroidea (click, firefly and soldier beetles)  


Lampyridae (fireflies)  





Subordinate Taxa


belted firefly (Photuris cinctipennis)

Bethany Beach firefly (Photuris bethaniensis)

Cape Breton firefly (Photuris fairchildi)

changeable firefly (Photuris versicolor)

Christmas lights firefly (Photuris tremulans)

common eastern mimic (Photuris pyralomima)

cypress firefly (Photuris walldoxeyi)

Everglades brownwing firefly (Photuris floridana)

fast crescendo (Photuris moorei)

firefly (Photuris appalachianensis)

firefly (Photuris aureolucens)

firefly (Photuris divisa)

firefly (Photuris eliza)

firefly (Photuris lineaticollis)

firefly (Photuris lloydi)

firefly (Photuris missouriensis)

Florida single snappy (Photuris congener)

heebie-jeebies firefly (Photuris hebes)

July comets (Photuris lucicrescens)

loopy five firefly (Photuris forresti)

mysterious lantern firefly (Photuris mysticalampas)

Pennsylvania firefly (Photuris pensylvanica)

Potomac River firefly (Photuris potomaca)

salt marsh firefly (Photuris salina)

Sky Island firefly (Photuris flavicollis)

slow blue (Photuris caerulucens)

snappy single sync (Photuris frontalis)

spring 4-flasher (Photuris quadrifulgens)






Common Names


This genus has no common name. The common name of the family Lampyridae is fireflies, and it is used here for convenience.














The hardened or leathery forewings of beetles used to protect the fragile hindwings, which are used for flying. Singular: elytron.



On insects, the last two to five subdivisions of the leg, attached to the tibia; the foot. On spiders, the last segment of the leg. Plural: tarsi.






Visitor Photos

Share your photo of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach one or more photos and, if you like, a caption.

Alfredo Colon

    firefly (Photuris sp.)   firefly (Photuris sp.)  
    firefly (Photuris sp.)      
    firefly (Photuris sp.)   firefly (Photuris sp.)  






Visitor Videos

Share your video of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Attach a video, a YouTube link, or a cloud storage link.


Other Videos
  So ... Sometimes Fireflies Eat Other Fireflies | Deep Look
Deep Look

Feb 27, 2018

Most firefly flashes are pure romance, a sexy form of skywriting. But one variety copies the mating signals of others to lure them to their demise.

  Photuris Firefly (Lampyridae: Photuris) on Leaf
Carl Barrentine

Jul 2, 2011

Photographed at the Rydell NWR, Minnesota (29 June 2011).

  FIRELFLY, Photuris resting
Rob Curtis

Dec 9, 2019

FIRELFLY, Photuris resting.McClaughery Springs FP, IL 8/1/2019




Visitor Sightings

Report a sighting of this insect.

  This button not working for you?
Simply email us at
Be sure to include a location.
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, MN

firefly (Photuris sp.)  
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, MN

firefly (Photuris sp.)  




Created: 8/27/2023

Last Updated:

About Us | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © All rights reserved.