Catch and Release and a Firefly Named Larry

This post was originally published on July 23, 2007.

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.

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

  1. Slacker Mom says:

    Oh this reminds me of my childhood and how my brother would catch them in an old JIF jar. Sometimes he’d punch holes in the lid and bring them into my room, like my own nightlight, until I fell asleep and then he’d set them free.
    Even now, I get excited when I start seeing ‘lightening bugs’ – it always signifies the long, lazy evenings of summer.
    Thanks for the memories πŸ™‚

  2. Sue says:

    What a sweet peek into summertime – it feels almost like a little piece of the past. It’s practically sepia toned. :>
    Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Louise says:

    It’s lovely to know, in this world of computers, television, cell phones, and video games, that kids still find joy in the goblin magic of fireflies. I think some things will last until the world ends; chasing fireflies is one of them!
    (sheesh, reading this over, I sound ancient. I’ve not even hit thirty, and I’m already talking about “kids these days!” I need to go do something irresponsible, remind myself that I’m not that far removed from being a kid myself … maybe I should name some of the spiders in my laundry room Larry)

  4. Spring says:

    This makes me nastalgic for summers in Joliet, Illinois. Now that I live in Florida, we don’t get to catch too many fireflies. What a beautiful entry. Thank you.

  5. chaotic joy says:

    My four year old caught fireflies for the first this summer and the wonder in his eyes immediately transported me back to my childhood. He named his also “Flash” “Sparkle” “Mary” & “Joseph” Priceless.

  6. fern says:

    Wonderful childhood memories-of my own and my kids. My kids used to have toads, and when you fed the fireflies to the toads the toads would light up and flash. It was sad that they were sacrificied to the food chain, but good for kids to see the chain in action, not to mention the fun of watching the toad’s throat light up, then a little farther down, then the belly. One toad/firefly flashed 26 times before it stopped.

  7. Kim says:

    Being from California, I saw my first firefly at 37 while at a professional conference in Colonial Williamsburg, VA. I squealed with delight and ran across the field to catch one in my hands. Thirty other teachers watched in amazement as I turned 7 for just a few moments.
    My colleague was embarrassed. I was enchanted!

  8. Antique Mommy says:

    I loved this the first time I read it and enjoyed just as much the second time. Brings back memories of my own childhood when it seems there were a lot more fireflys lighting up the night.

  9. MamaHen says:

    I grew up in a small town with four siblings and hoards of neighbors. This was our nightly ritual. Your post brought back so many memories.
    Living in the Rockies has eliminated this childhood pasttime for my own kids. They have never seen a lightening bug. *sigh*

  10. The Apron Queen says:

    Oh my gosh. You just transported me back to 1980 or so. Nothing better than a big ol’ pickle jar full of fireflies. We must have too many darn frogs out here in the sticks because we have don’t have many fireflies here. Visit my blog to see what we did with those pesky frogs. πŸ˜€
    For your daily dose of vintage goodness & a bit of silliness, stop by Confessions of an Apron Queen

  11. Polina says:

    I’ve never ever seen a firefly:(( They just don’t live in our area… I bet that if I’d see a single firefly somewhere, I would hunt him until caught… and I do love Larry name… it somehow really fits a firefly:)

  12. Molly says:

    Cute. We didn’t have fireflies where we lived growing upβ€”you had to go out to the country to see them. But when we did, it was so much fun! My mom (who grew up in the country) and her friends, when they were little, used to pull the lights off the back of the fireflies and stick them to their fingers as rings (until the little glow went away).
    I like your story better. πŸ™‚

  13. Meg in Tally says:

    Sounds like the long-ago evenings spent at Grandma’s house with all the other cousins. Here in N. Florida, we always called them “lightning bugs” and we weren’t usually as charitable to let them go. My brothers would even smush them for the “light paste” so their hands would glow. Boys can be really gross!

  14. Racheal says:

    I have never seen one. I will be thirty in two months, and I have never seen a firefly. Isn’t that funny? We don’t have them where we live and I have only heard about them. They sound amazing though! God’s amazing creation!

  15. Shalee says:

    My kids learned this joy activity this summer. The Boy was much better at catching the fireflies, much to The Girl’s chagrin.
    Ahhh, the memories of summer…

  16. Suzie Eller says:

    I remember catching fireflies at my grandma’s house. It was like magic, all the twinkling lights flitting in the dark. I think it’s good that we sometimes go back to those fun and innocent days and enjoy the beauty of fireflies again, instead of just seeing bugs. : )

  17. Fuschia says:

    Where my husband and I grew up, we didn’t have fireflies. But we each vacationed in firefly territory in the summers.
    A few evenings ago we were driving home and he shouted, “Are those fireflies?! They are! We have fireflies here!”
    A 38 year old man excited over the presence of fireflies…doesn’t get much better than that!

  18. Cibbit says:

    I am a big proponent of the catch and release of fireflies. Be very thankful that the kids only want to keep the fireflies in the jars in their rooms. My mother and her sisters as children, made braclets and necklaces out of the bugs. Apparently when you pull their little glowing hineys off they continue to glow. I cried the first time my mother told me this story.

  19. Crystal says:

    Fireflies are one of my favorite things about summer. Last year when my son was 3 he had his first firefly catching experience and it brought me such joy to go walking with the jar and catch them and name them. This year he can catch them himself. My daughters aren’t quite sure what to think of them.
    I remember my Pap used to catch them and cut the “lighters” off and make glow rings for us. I thought it was so cool… guess it was kinda cruel as well.
    Thanks for the memories!

  20. Twenty Four At Heart says:

    This makes me so sad to have grown up in S.Calif. (where I still live). I have never even SEEN a firefly! But we do have the sunsets on the beach at the end of the day … I guess I’ll live!

  21. Karen says:

    I captured and transported a couple fireflies in Ohio and took them to my children in Oregon. They loved it! At least one lived for a week or so in the back yard, we saw it a few times. always wished they’d somehow bred and taken over the yard, wouldn’t that have been fun?

  22. Dani says:

    My oldest (13) has had this incredible ability for catching fireflies in his hands since he was 3 years old. He can walk up to a blade of grass and just pluck one off on the first try. I guess it says something about his calm and gentle nature.
    I still love watching him do it. πŸ™‚

  23. Ginny says:

    While I never lived anywhere where we could catch fireflies, your blog made me think of summers growing up. We would all come out after dinner. Mom’s would sit on someone’s porch and kids would play until it was too dark to see. We would roller skate (old kind with 4 wheels), hula hoop and play hide-n-seek. It’s nice to know that there are still places where kids can play late into the night.

  24. jen says:

    I wish we had fireflies here in Colorado. Apparently we’re too high up for them to survive. I have wonderful memories of catching them every summer and wish my boys could have that joy too.

  25. Shannon says:

    My boys tried to, unsuccessfully, catch some the other night. I loved to do that when I was little. A lightning bug flashlight!!! (we call them lightning bugs down South)

  26. Tiffany says:

    I have never, ever seen a firefly and neither have my children. I hope one day we will take a trip somewhere where they shine brightly. It’s on my Bucket List:)

  27. Aimee says:

    I loved this post about fireflies and first read it while composing my own post (in my head) about my children’s love of fireflies. Thank you!

  28. Melanie says:

    Maybe the firefly moms send their kids out to play with the human kids.
    “Now, you play nice and let one of them catch you in a pickle jar. Don’t worry. They’ll let you go, Larry.”
    :>)

  29. Dani says:

    There are places on this Earth that don’t have FIREFLIES?!?!
    Oh my. And here we all are taking them for granted!

  30. Missy says:

    Shannon,
    I’m a newbie in this whole blog world. I’ve been reading your blog for a little while now and I just love it so much! Your writing is so real and I just love stopping by each day to see what you have to say. Thanks for what you do – you add smiles to my day!
    Oh, and for whatever reason, we always seem to have a Larry the Lightning Bug, too! Go figure! : )

  31. ukrainiac says:

    Once again I was so spoiled and didn’t even know it! I had no idea until I read these comments that lightning bugs are only in some areas of the States. Thankful that Cincinnati had them!

  32. Mrs B says:

    Oh how this brings back memories of catching fireflys with my siblings and my cousins. I can’t wait until my baby is old enough to catch them. I may have to take him out tomorrow night and catch them for him.

  33. Kristen says:

    My 5 year old daughter and 3 year old son are obsessed with this activity. I have not yet been able to convince them to release each night, but it is the first thing they do each morning. We have a fairly good rate of live ones each day. πŸ™‚

  34. Cheryl says:

    Oh twosome is SO in the same mode! Although our hero frontyard dwelling firefly is “Junior” and his buddy, “Noon-yer.”
    Ain’t summer grand?

  35. Amy says:

    I love this! I grew up in the West where there are no fireflies or cicadas, but have since lived in the South for years and am back in the West again…I sure do miss those sights and sounds of summer! My son only knows about fireflies and cicadas from books, and we need to fix that! πŸ™‚

  36. Jamie (Ohbecareful!) says:

    Cute. πŸ™‚
    Regarding fireflies named Larry, my son has a picture book, called “Leo the Lightning Bug,” I think, in which there is a firefly named Larry. It makes me wonder what other names make the Top 100 Most Popular Firefly Larvae Names list.

  37. Denise says:

    Did you know there is a children’s book called “Larry the Lightning Bug”? Perhaps some of the children on the ‘council’ have it on their bookshelf!

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