Janet Hommel Mangas: Let the abdomen bioluminescence begin

Technically we still have 12 more days of spring since the astronomical first day of summer isn’t until June 20.

But personally, I choose to designate summer when I spot my first lightning bug of the season — and the field next to us has been blinking at night for a few weeks.

If you’re from the Northern or Western states, you might call them “fireflies.”

In England they call them glowworms.

In Japan, they’re called hotaru.

If you’re preparing for an upcoming 4H Entomology Project for the Johnson County Fair, you label them under the order “Coleoptera” (beetles) and then its’ supposed common name of “firefly.”

But beside the correct common name I was taught by my Indiana-raised Mom and Dad — “lightning bug” — I do love the Jamaican term: “blinkies.” (I might add that one to my grandson’s 2-year-old vocabulary.)

I have great memories of sitting on our front concrete porch-steps with my siblings watching our yard light up. It wouldn’t take long before we were looking for a mason jar that we covered with hole-punched aluminum foil and fitted with a rubber band. We ran around the front and back yard catching lightning bugs then carefully slipping them into the clear mason jars filled with grass to keep the little blinkers content for their short term in their new surroundings.

We would plan out in detail how we would use the jar full of five blinking insects as a lantern and camp-out in the backyard. We could use the abdomen flashes as morse code and talk to each other from different tents. So many great ideas.

But after some time, we’d always open the top of the jar and let them glow.

Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to [email protected].