Catch and Release and a Firefly Named Larry

Nearly every night, there is a meeting called to order promptly at 8:45, in my front yard.  It’s the Council of Sweaty-Headed Neighborhood Kids Who Are Trying To Put Off Bedtime As Long As Possible, meeting for the serious task of catching as many fireflies as their old pickle jars can hold. 

Every night the routine is the same:  the Council comes to order with a squeal of joy when the first "twinkle" appears. It’s a summer symphony:  the slamming of jar lids, shouts of "I got one!", wails of anguish when one gets away.  There is the thump of little bodies colliding in the dusk, the hiss of Off! spray, and the ever-present song of the cicada humming behind it all.

And there is the same conversation every time:  do we keep our fireflies, or let them go?  They’ll live longer in the wild, but oh! the tempting joy of a pickle jar of fireflies on a bedside table in the dark.   

As a testament to the charity of children, the fireflies are usually released, often with a naming ceremony (strangely, there’s  always a Larry–why is there always a Larry?) and a bittersweet farewell.  The Council adjourns for baths and bedtimes, and porch lights flicker on.

Goodnight, Larry.  Until tomorrow.

44 thoughts on “Catch and Release and a Firefly Named Larry

  1. Amanda Regan says:

    Every animal in my area is given the name “Scooby” which is fine until you realise every teddy is also named “Scooby”. When your toddler is screaming & crying for “Scooby” it can take ages to figure out which “Scooby” is wanted.

  2. Rhonda says:

    What fun! Unfortunately, the spraying our city does for mosquitos also kills the fireflies. So, no firely hunting for my children. Sigh…

  3. LadyBug Crossing says:

    We have never attempted to catch our fireflies… We must be boring. We love to sit and watch them flicker on and off. They are like the neon lights of the woods.

  4. Annie from Where the Green Grass Grows says:

    My husband (raised here in FL) saw his first firefly (or lightning bug, as we say in GA, and TN) this summer in TN, and thought for a minute he had gone crazy till he asked me what it was. I had forgotten all about them and laughed and laughed after his first “sighting.”

  5. elizabeth says:

    We always have a Ted… Over the weekend we were on a lake with friends. The shore was dark green in the fading light. Apparently lightening bugs communicate with those lights, and periodically a little wave of flickers would sparkle for us. Even the kids floating back to the slip via big floaties behind the boats were in awe.

  6. Grace says:

    Funny that I came here after just posting about fireflies. Where have all the fireflies gone? We barely have any around our house – and we live within an hour of where I grew up with tons of them.

  7. momrn2 says:

    Growing up in the Midwest, we used to do the same thing as children.
    Now that I live in the Pac NW, we do not have fireflies/ “lighting bugs”. It makes me sad that my children will not have these types of memories to look back on.

  8. MamaLee says:

    Brings me right back to when I was young. I sometimes see the fireflies here in my frontyard. I hope they still around! I’d love to have my kids fully enjoy them as well.

  9. Susanne says:

    That is so heartwarming, sweet and “Americana”. I have never in my life seen a firefly and after reading this I feel like I missed out on a wonderful part of childhood that kids who live with fireflys have experienced. Lovely post, Shannon!

  10. Nic says:

    Fireflies and ladybugs are the “It” bugs around here. Inevitably, there will be two bugs in captivity, aptly named “Joe” and (drumroll, please) “The Other Joe”. I love kids!

  11. Stacey says:

    I’ve only gotten to play with fireflies one time but it was so cool! That was such a cute story. It makes me wish I lived in a place where my boys could play with them 🙂

  12. Lady S says:

    Everything here (2 adults, no kids) is called George. My mother always called the garbage disposal George and then there is George in Of Mice and Men, so everything is George.
    I noticed the other day we have fireflies in our yard. 5 years and I never noticed. I may have to catch some Georges tonight.

  13. Diatribal says:

    We always had a Fred. No matter the “make or model” the first critter was always a Fred. Recently I was in MI, where we are moving. I was SO EXCITED to see fireflies!! I can’t stand to think of my daughter not knowing the joy of catching a firefly!
    Great little story. Makes me think of being a kid.

  14. erin says:

    I love this post.
    My kids are still alittle young for staying up late catching fireflies but I can remember when I used to do it. I too had a name ceremony. I always had a Gretchen. (I hadn’t thought of that in years) Thanks for the memory.

  15. Shelly says:

    LOL! Why is there always a Larry? Too cute 🙂
    I’ve finally moved out of the city some here in Atlanta. You would’ve thought I was a 5 year old when I was out here in the suburbial house and saw my first fire fly in … I don’t know how many years. 10??
    I got out of my chair squealing, pointing, waving my hands to everyone else to make sure they saw them too! Yea…I looked like a goof!
    They are just too much fun dancing the night away though.

  16. lori says:

    Hi Shannon!
    There was just an article in the KC Star about fireflies. If the boys want to keep them overnight, don’t punch holes in the lid of the jar. Also have some grass and apple slices in the jar to keep them alive and hydrated. The article did say to release them the next day.

  17. Homeschool Mama says:

    Oh man! We need to do this for our Family Fun Night Friday! Why not let the kids fall asleep with the jars next to them (holes punched in lids, of course) and then Mom and Dad can let them go so they don’t die after they fall asleep staring at them? Just a thought.

  18. LeeAnn says:

    Fireflies…the best part of the East Coast because nothing is good about the heat and humidity! I use to visit the relatives (New York) every summer and I remember this as the best fun I ever had.

  19. Julie says:

    I would love to see a firefly! I’ve never seen one – we don’t have them here, but they sound so wonderful. My Dad – who’s name is Larry – would be glad to know that there’s always a Larry and that he’s released! LOL Take care and God bless!

  20. TaunaLen says:

    My husband’s name is Larry. He’ll love this story! Ahhh, fireflies. That’s the story of my summertime childhood. Good to know there are still kids making firely memories out there in the heat of a summer evening.

  21. TaunaLen says:

    My husband’s name is Larry. He’ll love this story! Ahhh, fireflies. They’re a flashback to my summertime childhood. Good to know there are still kids making firely memories out there in the heat of a summer evening.

  22. Kalyn says:

    You, and all the other major bloggers out there REALLY need to get a Macintosh. 🙂 A song is coming to my head “There ain’t no bugs on me… there might be bugs on sum of you mugs, but there ain’t no bugs on me” 🙂

  23. Kim of says:

    I’ve released many Larrys in my day. 🙂
    It’s so refreshing to hear that these sorts of meetings are still taking place. The other night (about the same time you are talking about) my husband, Jason, and I went for a walk in the neighborhood and the flickers we saw were not from the fireflies being chased, but from the tv’s in the bedrooms.
    I’m thrilled to know that these precious summer night memories are still being made!!!

  24. melanie glenn says:

    So jealous am I! Not only do we not have fireflies here in the northern california foothills, but I have only read of them in childrens books and never even layed eyes on one.
    It’s always been one of the things I hope to see before I leave this life.

  25. CC says:

    Oh yes, fireflies or also known as lighting bugs. I missing their lovely twilight glow here in the humid weather of NC. Growing up in MI, I would love to catch them, put them in a jar, and then release them in my room for the night. However, I never gave them names (my lighting bugs would have had girls names). 🙂 Summers do not seem complete until I can set my eyes on a few fireflies/lighting bugs.

  26. lisa h. says:

    i’m so happy we live where there are fireflies around (or as we call them lightning bugs). it’s so magical if you can find a place to watch them…like a big open field surrounded by trees and just sit and what as they all “twinkle” around…we do it every summer and the kids love it! and we do sometimes fill a jar up with some!

  27. Kim says:

    This is great!! before we moved our kids loved catching the lightning bugs. Now we are in sc, and we haven’t seen any. No stopping my kids, they caught a couple roly polies. What? Did I say roly polies? I meant to say Squirt and Squirt Jr.!

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