LIST OF GENERA AND SPECIES OF FIREFLIES IN AUSTRALIA
Aquilonia costata (Lea 1921)
Atyphella atra Lea 1921
Atyphella brevis Lea 1909
Atyphella conspicua Ballantyne 2000
Atyphella ellioti Ballantyne 2000
Atyphella flammans Olliff 1890
Atyphella flammulans Ballantyne 2000
Atyphella immaculata Ballantyne 2000
Atyphella inconspicua (Lea 1921)
Atyphella lewisi Ballantyne 2000
Atyphella lychnus Olliff 1890
Atyphella monteithi Ballantyne 2000
Atyphella olivieri Lea 1915
Atyphella scintillans Olliff 1890
Atyphella similis Ballantyne 2000
Australoluciola australis (Fabricius 1775)
Australoluciola flavicollis (MacLeay 1872)
Australoluciola nigra (Olivier 1896)
Australoluciola orapallida (Ballantyne 2000)
Lloydiella majuscula (Lea 1915)
Medeopteryx cribellata (Olivier 1892)
Medeopteryx platygaster (Lea 1909)
Pygoluciola cowleyi (Blackburn 1897)
Pyrophanes beccarii Olivier 1885
WHERE ARE THE FIREFLIES IN AUSTRALIA?
Australian fireflies are all flashing fireflies – both males and females can produce light which is used so the sexes can find each other for mating. Their immature stages, called larvae, are also capable of producing a light, which is not flashed but will often be turned off if you are treading nearby.
They occur mainly along the eastern seaboard of Australia from Cape York peninsula to as far south as Kangaroo Valley in NSW. This is a discontinuous pattern that parallels, for the most part, regions of rainforest, wet sclerophyll forest and mangroves. There are many records of fireflies from the northern part of the northern Territory, where they seem to occur mainly in association with bodies of water. It seems that there are a few unpublished records of fireflies in north western WA, but thus far we don’t know anything about their environment. There are no fireflies south of Kangaroo valley, and none in Victoria, South Australia, or Tasmania.
Their larvae feed on small snails and slugs and earthworms which live in moist leaf litter, so their distribution is tied to the incidence of areas that have abundant sources of the larval food.
We are hoping through this Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/firefliesofaustralia to discover many more areas where fireflies might be found. Some are spread over wide areas when you only see a couple of them displaying at the one time. Others, especially if they have females that can’t fly, will be restricted to quite small areas and these are the ones that might emerge all together in very large numbers and create such wonderful displays.
Since firefly larvae feed mainly on small slugs and snails and other invertebrates, they will be found in environments which support this larval prey. Their prey, in turn, probably feed on fungi and detritus on the forest floor. These locations might be very small patches along a creek, or a roadside verge, or larger areas in National Parks like Lamington. In general, the moisture level of the undergrowth will determine if they might be present.
Essentially they occur across the northern areas of Australia from a few unpublished records in West Australia, across the more coastal areas of the Northern Territory into Queensland especially Cape York, and down the coast in both mangrove and rain forest to near Bundaberg, (this seems to be the southern limit of the mangrove species), further south with a healthy distribution in SE Queensland and even in and around Brisbane, then in relict rain forest and more open wet sclerophyll forest to Kangaroo Valley in NSW, with records west to the Blue mountains and all across the New England tableland. There are no fireflies in Australia south of Kangaroo valley in NSW, and none in Victoria, South Australia or Tasmania.
WA. We know very little about the potential West Australian records which may have been taken around Kununurra in more open forest. The possibility of fireflies along the north western WA coastline in mangroves is yet to be explored.
NT. In the NT which only has a couple of species, they are mainly seen in various locations around Darwin, Edith Falls and around Katherine. Interestingly one of the species we see here, Pygoluciola cowleyi, has probably come across from Indonesia, rather than the accepted route for most of our species which was across land bridges (when they existed) from New Guinea. The NT also has Aquilonia costata, the only firefly I know to have quite this distinctive colouration of orange-red surface with black tips to the forewings (it is found along Cape York peninsula too).
QLD. The most firefly species occur in Queensland, usually either in rainforest or wet sclerophyll. In Cape York peninsula I have collected species east of Coen where the advice above about dodging problems like crocodiles came in very handy. Both mangrove species and forest species were found here. The first Australian firefly every described was taken along what is now the Endeavour River in 1770 by the famous botanist Joseph Banks. Kuranda has a couple of species. Look around Crystal Cascades near Cairns.
Along the Queensland coast they might be in mangroves. I saw my first firefly at the old Boyne River crossing on the highway in the early sixties (in mangroves). A nice colony lives on an island in the middle of the Burrum River near Bundaberg. In the Gold Coast hinterland and on Lamington National Park this could be anywhere there is a good ground cover of moist leaf litter.
Colonies are known from, and others have been anecdotally reported, throughout Brisbane River Catchments in the lower Ipswich and Brisbane area, also the headwaters of the Stanley River and its tributaries, including the gullies flowing down from the Conondale Ranges.
NSW. Fireflies occur in coastal regions (Bellingen often has mass displays), and further west in rainforest across the New England tableland. Our most famous firefly, the Blue Mountains firefly, can be found in isolated pockets to the north east and south of the Blue Mountains.
WHEN DO WE SEE THEM?
While we usually only see the major display of large numbers of fireflies across a 3 week period, they may be still emerging and mating for much longer than that, but in those smaller numbers they may not even get noticed Atyphella scintillans at Leycester heralds spring, and displayed all through September. In the Ourimbah area we are getting reports of the same species still active now in November, while we also know that further north much earlier reports have been made at Burleigh Heads. If the large numbers are not there then we probably won’t go looking, but I wonder if the fireflies, in much smaller numbers, are still emerging and reproducing across a much wider window than we thought.
WHERE ARE THEY WHEN WE DON'T SEE THEM ANY MORE? (I will add pictures to this section soon)
Firefly life cycles.
A life cycle of a firefly is the series of changes it undergoes from when the female lays her eggs until a female of the very next generation is laying her eggs again.
Fireflies have a life cycle that is divided into different forms that allow them to be specialized for feeding, and then reproduction. Unlike us, who when we are born are obviously human, fireflies exist in different forms, only one of which is the flashing adult we are now familiar with. We may not even recognize the other stages as even being fireflies. Their life cycle starts with the eggs laid by the female, which hatch into the feeding stage the larvae. This is the longest stage, and fireflies spend most of their life as larvae. Another stage is the pupa, which allows the transformation of the larva into the adult the stage we are most familiar with. Fireflies spend a very short time in this adult form which is specialized just for reproduction (our fireflies may not feed at all as adults).
The light displays we see in spring and summer when masses of males are flying around is a mating dance, the males flashing furiously hoping to be the selected suitor of a female.
Atyphella scintillans, our winter firefly, has a flightless female, which spends time on the ground usually with her light turned off, and only if she is impressed by the male display, will she turn it on (actually there is a very precise time interval between his flash and her response). While the male has a very clear pattern of flash on and flash off, so its trail in the air looks a bit like a dotted line, this female still produces pulses, but hers are much slower and of course they are at ground level. When a male spots her light he will fly down to the ground and undergo another round of furious flashing as he tries to find her and mate with her.
It begins with eggs. The female firefly now can lay her fertilized eggs in the same area (as this female can’t fly she is restricted to where she is). This means that these species are often in little pockets of bush and not widely spread, as we are seeing in Ourimbah this year 2022. In other species when the female can fly she is able to spread the species much more widely. The whole point of that massed display was to allow those eggs to be fertilised.
The life cycle of certain insects like beetles, moths and butterflies in particular has some amazing elements to it. When we are born (not hatched from an egg!) we are clearly a human and the changes that occur as we get bigger are gradual, but we are always recognizable. The other life cycle, say of a butterfly or the firefly, has various stages that look quite different to each other. It is a marvel of nature as the two main objectives of this life cycle, to eat enough to keep the adults functioning, and to mate and produce eggs to ensure the species continues to function, are put into separate compartments. Out of the egg hatches the stage that will feed. In butterflies this is the caterpillar, and if you have ever had something like the Cabbage white butterfly laying eggs on your garden plants then you will appreciate that all it does is eat and eat and eat! Whether it is a caterpillar or a firefly larva, there are differences to what the adult butterfly or firefly will be. In a caterpillar there are no wings, it is sexually immature, and it has jaws that allow it to chew through plant leaves. But look at the adult. It has two pairs of often beautifully marked wings, is sexually mature, can fly, and has an elongate piece of its mouthparts that is can coil and uncoil to imbibe nectar from flowers.
On the other hand the firefly larva sucks the juices of snails and slugs, is sexually immature, has no wings and can’t fly, and can produce light as two tiny pin points from the second last segment of the body. The light does not flash in a regular rhythm.
Clearly there has to be some mechanism that allows this major transformation of all these different body parts from the larva to the adult. This stage is called a pupa (chrysalis often in butterflies), and here there is a type of melt down of all the larval features and a reassembling into adult features. It is a real wonder of nature. A quite wonderful transformation takes place. If it is a firefly then the larva has no wings, it has no reproductive organs, and quite small light organs which it can just turn on and off, but no flashing. The pupa reassembles all the larval structures into those of the adult, which has wings, large obvious light organs that can flash and of course a functional reproductive system.
These are the stages we may not see and are happening when the main display phase is over. First the eggs hatch into tiny larvae, which are distinctively coloured, rather flattened, and whose only job is to eat! Calling them an alimentary canal on legs is not inappropriate. Since they live on tiny slugs and snails and earthworms, the larvae will be found in moist leaf litter.
We are unsure with our Australian fireflies whether they are larvae for just one year or more likely for two. Close to when we are seeing the first males flying around, the larva has changed into that most wonderful stage, the pupa. And often just after rain when the soil has softened a little, out of the pupa comes an adult firefly, either male or female.
WHEN DO THEY DISPLAY?
What governs the actual time of their display? Probably many factors, bright moon, rain, wind and especially the ambient light. Did you know that one of the environmental pollutants for fireflies is light? Along the majestic rivers in Thailand once long ago all the trees along the river banks had colonies of synchronously flashing fireflies. Now you are hard pressed to find just one tree. Apart from other pollution the main reason may well be light from all the habitations along the river.
We have little data on when our own species display but most are reporting at dusk. My own experience with them near Gladstone was once the sun had set but before it had become too dark for me to see my way around, and even then they did not stay displaying for a long period, maybe an hour tops. That certainly meant I could still see my way around.
DEVELOPING A FIREFLY CULTURE IN AUSTRALIA
(written with help and encouragement from Helen Schwencke of Brisbane).
Given we have so many different genera and species it is a bit of a puzzle why we really don't have a firefly culture like they do in the USA, Taiwan and other tropical countries such as Malaysia. Let’s start changing this.
Fireflies are not usually common in our Australian backyards, at least not in those areas that are becoming more urbanised! They are often found in out of the way places, and we need to be out at dusk or at night to see them. Also, the locality might not be accessible. I know of populations that are on private, agricultural properties, where access of course will be a problem. It is possible fewer observations have been made in this country because of our lower population levels in many areas where fireflies may be more prevalent.
And sometimes it might be a human agency that often inadvertently reduces firefly populations and their visibility. A population in the grass verge along a dirt road leading to a property displayed massively one season, but then the verge was mowed and the next season none appeared. Or in another urban situation that I was told about where fireflies occurred in a deep gully and a new home owner decided to clear the gully to its base and to flood light it.
In far north Queensland where most of our species live, they have been recorded in National Parks or on mountain tops. Those from Gladstone north might be in mangroves, but in accessing them we have to watch out for crocodiles. Even further north as I discovered years ago in Cape York peninsula, I was given instructions on how to avoid wild pigs (stand behind the tree as it charges then climb the tree), crocodiles (they move very quickly along the flat but not so well up a river bank (so run up the river bank as long as that was nearby!!), and of course snakes including the taipan (just hope you don't see one)! In searching we do need to be aware of other wildlife, though the conditions are likely to be less dramatic in south-east Queensland and further south.
Weather and other conditions having been favourable, fireflies are usually around in large numbers for 2 or 3 weeks. As yet we can't always predict just when they will emerge in our dry and ever changing climate. What and where you saw them this year might not be the same place again next year, especially if someone has altered the habitat. However, there are some locations that do have colonies that have larger or smaller populations each year. This is something where it would be of great help if more people were observing and reporting firefly species, their living conditions/habitat and their locations.
There is another concern and this applies to the more local level. Firefly habitats might be a very small area, like a small moist gully, or the roadside verge I mentioned before.
If we want to keep seeing them, we need more people to be aware of where they are and how fragile that small environment might be.
First, how do we find them?
And second, how do we conserve them?
You can help:
– explore your local area or places you’re visiting for remnant vegetation, or more intact areas, during daylight so you know what to expect in the evening
– wear clothing that covers your whole body to avoid scratches and other injuries, along with closed in shoes
– use a torch with a yellow filter which allows fireflies to continue their display. White light and other coloured filters cause them to stop displaying. You can make your own filter with yellow cellophane. Bright moonlight can interfere with their display in more exposed locations.
– look for adult fireflies from dusk to early evening. They will be displaying anytime between from early - mid August until mid-January. The length of the display may vary from thirty minutes to over one hour but just when they are at their peak will vary from area to area and state to state.
The main part of the mating swarm will be the males. You can even attract them to you if you use a torch, cover the light source with your fingers so only a little of the beam is visible, and try to mimic the on off pattern you are seeing. If you catch a couple of males and put them into a glass jar, you will find you are suddenly a firefly magnet as the flashing of the specimens in the jar being a bit erratic, will attract other males to you to investigate. Females might be harder to find. If they can fly then, in a mating swarm, they often choose to stay on the ground or climb up a blade of grass, and display only intermittently. Look at ground level for a slower more rhythmical flash if you want to find a female. If the females can’t fly then you will only find them by spotting their occasional slower flashing of the ground.
Their larvae are harder to spot, but they will be crawling along the ground and every once in a while they too turn on their light, but this time it will appear as a continuous pin point on the ground.
To help with the discovery process:
– collecting samples is an important for identifying the species you are observing. It is still possible there are undescribed species, also that some species thought to be a single species may yet turn out to be different species or subspecies.
– carry small screw top bottles of methylated spirits with you so you can collect one or two fireflies: males, females, larvae and pupae. Contact me through the contact icon, on each page, and I can let you know where to send the samples.
- samples give the most reliable results for identification. You can take pictures of the specimens, though only sending me pictures makes if harder for me to attempt to identify them. However if all else fails that is a start. Photos of the surrounding vegetation could be useful also.
– set up an iNaturalist account and post your images. Also add your post to the “Fireflies of Australia” project, see: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/fireflies-of-australia. If you can include other information that would be helpful, e.g. about time of night, time of year, was the moon out, was it windy, what type vegetation were they displaying in, were you able to find females? But any information will be helpful.
– join the Fireflies of Australia Facebook community page (details to be added soon).
It is inevitable that with so many sites addressing fireflies that some incorrect information creeps in. So let's address some of them.
Australian fireflies have mouthparts as adults and a mouth, and could feed. Whether they do we simply don't know. In Malaysia the famous synchronously flashing Pteroptyx tener often takes in moisture on the leaf surface or may take in nectar, but I do not know of any observations where they try to attack the larval prey of snails and slugs. They are probably too busy elsewhere.
Is the head really covered by the pronotum? Not in Australian fireflies. In well researched fireflies like the American Photuris and Photinus species the anterior portion of the pronotum is quite flat and projects forward, and inevitably the head will be concealed beneath, and this gives rise to observations that this sort of structure helps to concentrate vision downwards, making it easier for the male to spy a female. In scientific terms the hypomeron is open and the anterior margin of the pronotum is explanate. Unfortunately when the Australian entomologist A Sydney Olliff first saw a firefly and described it, he saw Atyphella lychnus the Blue mountains firefly. This is probably the only Australian firefly where the male head is small and is retracted within the prothoracic cavity (in scientific terms however here the hypomeron is closed anteriorly and the anterior margin of the pronotum is not explanate). Olliff was confused by the appearance in this firefly and first placed the species in the Lampyrinae. If you want to pursue it further refer to Ballantyne & Lambkin (2013:127) accessible in the publications section.
A little known species with an unusual colouration pattern even for a firefly; it is dorsally orange with black tips to the elytra. For a species that not many know about, it has a wide range of places where it can be found, mainly in the Northern Territory especially around rivers: Groote Eylandt, Moa (Banks) island, Tortilla flats near Darwin, Edith Falls, Daly River, Katherine, and Katherine Gorge, as well as near Weipa in Cape York Peninsula, and the Wenlock River. 7.7-9.7 mm long; has been taken from November through to February. It is hoped that a site like this and the information here will spur readers on to discover more about this widespread but largely unknown species. What we do know is that the female can fly but we know nothing about its habitat or immature stages. However since it is found in far northern Australia, your safety must be paramount if you are searching for this species. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 fig. 4.
Known from three disjunct mountain rainforest systems, the Lamington Plateau on the border between Queensland and NSW, and the D'Aguilar and Conondale Ranges, approx. 40 km and 90 km respectively NNW of Brisbane. From above it appears quite dark, hence the specific name of atra. And like all the other Australian Atyphella species we know of, it has a flightless female. Unlike other Atyphella females this one has forewings (elytra) that cover the abdomen, but no flight wings, which are the hind wings . 5-7 mm long. Taken from October to December; I collected males females and larvae of this species at Mt Glorious near Maiala National Park. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 figs 9, 10, 83-85.
Atyphella lychnus is the Blue mountains firefly. It is really the only firefly in Australia well known enough to have been given a common name! It was also the first Australian firefly to have been described, in 1890, and originally it was only known from Mt Wilson in the Blue Mountains hence the common name. Now we know that it can be found all over the place from as far south as Kangaroo Valley in NSW through to the wet sclerophyll forests of the New England tablelands and in the rain forest there, even to some records in Queensland. Recorded from Kenilworth, Dorrigo, Macksville, Barrington Tops, Buladelah, near Kiama, and of course Kangaroo Valley. Sometimes all we are working from is a pinned specimen in a museum collection that should have a locality label on it and a date of collection, but that might not tell us much apart from a general area. That is why getting the public interested (we can call this citizen science) will mean such a lot in terms of finding out just what species is where as now with our climate changing so much we are not sure of the range of them. It has a very wide distribution and that is a little odd as well. It will be the female carrying all those fertilised eggs who will fly around to find a place to lay them and that is how the range of a species will gradually expand. But the odd thing? It seems that the female of this species has short flight wings and probably can’t fly very far, if she can fly at all. We don't know. Another problem for our citizen scientists to investigate. It is 6-9.5 mm long. David Finlay (see in the picture of the flashing pattern) is helping map the incidence of this species but your observations will help too. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 figs 11, 78, 79. Check out this site from Margarita Steinhardt about the Blue Mountains firefly https://www.thewildlifediaries.com and go to Finding fireflies and glowworms in the Blue Mountains.
Almost golden yellow underneath and 5-7 mm long. I have given a common name to this firefly although it is not well known. Meet Joseph Banks’ firefly. It was collected at the Endeavour River in an area of mangroves where Cooktown now is in 1770 by Joseph Banks himself! It then fell off its pin and it was many years before we were able to work out just what species it was. We know it occurs down the eastern coast of Queensland in mangroves as far south as Bundaberg, where I know of a population on an island in the middle of the Burrum River. It was the first firefly I ever saw. And yes the female can fly! It is also the species that occurs along the Ross River in Townsville. But a caveat, I find it in mangroves, and this is one place where we need to be very careful of our own safety. And of course additionally we need to avoid the mozzies and midges!!
One of the larger of our fireflies at 8-13 mm long, and a bright and easily recognised colour pattern. Found in far north Queensland just north of the Bloomfield River to as far south as Mackay. The habitat seems to be tropical coastal mostly in lowlands. The female is probably flightless, and is paler than the male with faint traces of the bright pattern you can see here. It appears to like lowland coastal tropical environments. Seen flying at head height at Crystal Cascades near Cairns and very easy to catch in a net. Appears from October - December. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 figs 123,130, 131.
Yes this one looks a lot like Atyphella flammans above but they are different species. An uncommon species from north Queensland where it is a rainforest species, occurring from lowlands to moderately high elevations. We do not know what the female is like. It is 6-8 mm long. Usually seen from September - November.
Another rare species from north Queensland, named because it is unusual among Atyphella species in having no darker markings on its pronotum. Found around the Mt Finnigan area, and strictly an upland rainforest species, ranging from 750-1200 metres. It is 7-9 mm long. Early sighting of this species was near Mareeba (Tinaroo Creek Road); latest sighting is November. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 fig. 127.
As its name suggests a small species 5-7 mm long, but remarkably common in north Queensland where it occurs in the Cooktown area and as far south as Ingham. Common at many rainforest areas usually above 500 metres (it has been recorded up to 1330 metres). Appears to not be a lowland species. Most prevalent from October - December but has been seen as late as January. This specimen is from the Bellenden Ker Range. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 figs 125, 133.
It was so named as it looks like Atyphella inconspicua but is longer (7-nearly 10 mm long), it is found in north Queensland at a high elevation (750-1300 metres) from near the Bloomfield River to north of Cairns. Usually the only species taken. We know of two records where it was taken at 350 metres with Atyphella inconspicua. Appears from September - December.
A pretty and widespread species, occurring in the wet tropics from sea level to above 1000 metres and one of the few species to occur around the area of the Paluma Dam. Easily taken in flight. Female might be able to fly, her flight wings are just a little short. 5.5-10 mm long. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 fig. 128.
The firefly with the wonderful name. Perhaps Olliff, who described it, was taken with the wonderful light display. SE Queensland and NE NSW in rainforest or remnant rainforest, often coastal. Can also be seen in suburban areas in Brisbane. Displays of this species often attract the most attention as they emerge in large numbers and the local ABC radio gets excited reporting it. This is probably the species seen this year (2022) around Bellingen. 6.6- almost 10 mm long. Flightless female. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 figs 129, 132, 135.
A small but widespread species occurring in New Guinea and across northern Australia south along the Queensland coast as far as Woolgoolga near Gympie. I have always found it in open forest where it may be attracted to light; not known from rain forest. The elytra always have paler orange margins and the base may also be orange. Notice the shape of the side margins of the pronotum, which taper towards the elytra; this is very characteristic of this species. 4.5-6.5 mm long. Winged female. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2013 figs 45, 48.
Close to the species above but this one has elytra which are entirely black. Very widespread species and may be seen in suburban backyards in Brisbane. I have collected it there in areas of rain forest or relict rainforest where there is much lantana, and I have taken it with Atyphella scintillans. Usually in sclerophyll forest across northern Australia and down the east coast of Queensland to Burleigh Heads. Yes I have seen it in the National park there. Flighted female. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 fig. 75.
Widespread in mountain rainforest zones of North Queensland from just south of Cooktowh to a little south of Ravenshoe where it ranges from 400-1160 metres. An early record at sea level from Cairns was probably inaccurate. 5.5-7.0 mm long. We haven't found the female. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 fig. 122.
A small species, 5-5.5 mm long, and found in the Northern Territory around Darwin. Distinctive because of its colour, and that very large head. Look at the back of the head and the eyes which have a big chunk taken out of them (we call this a posterior eye emargination). No females known and whenever we don't see the females we surmise that they may be flightless.
I was surprised when I found this species near the Binna Burra Lodge on Lamington Plateau, and couldn't identify it. I gave it a most unimaginative name, similis, but you can see from the pictures above that lots of these fireflies look alike. This one has been confused with Atyphella lychnus. It is 5.8-7.5 mm long, and taken in flight flying in large numbers. I found the flightless females on the ground by their slower rhythmic flashing, and larvae as well when we spotted their light. SE Queensland and northern NSW in high cool mountain areas, mostly in rainforest. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 fig 134.
The smallest of our Australian fireflies 3.6-3.9 mm long; found in far north Queensland on the upper parts of Mt Elliot in rainforest (hence its name), and at Eungella, never below 900 metres. This and Atyphella flammans are the only two species of Atyphella which occur both north and south of the dry barrier between Townsville and Mackay.
Another small species (4.8-5.7 mm long) and superficially similar to both Atyphella brevis and Aty. ellioti. It is distinguished from all other Australian fireflies by the reduced area of the light organs in the last abdominal segment. If you look closely at the picture to the left it almost appears as it the light organ is split into two. An upland species restricted to the northern mountains of the wet tropics zone of Queensland. Only one record below 600 m is from the Cape Tribulation coast area where other upland species from adjacent mountains are also found at sea level. We might have a female! She has very short elytra and large fleshy abdomen, so quite incapable of much movement. See also Ballantyne & Lambkin 2009 figs 124, 136.
Named for the person who collected most of these species in the northern tropics, and who has many species named after him in appreciation. A rare species presently only known from the Crystal Cascades area near Cairns where they were netted while flying and flashing. No females or larvae known.
This is a female from Thursday Island taken in August 2021, and thanks to Domf for letting me use it here. This species is only known from salt water couch along the Massey River in the east coast of Cape York Peninsula, and at Breakfast Creek in mangroves. The occurrence of females (I know of another from Saibai Island) on northern islands suggests the species also occurs in New Guinea. The colour pattern is very like that of Aus. flavicollis but the pronotum and elytral margins are reddish rather than yellow. We found it on damp drift wood which collects and is left by the high tides during every part of the year. Beetles could be picked off the driftwood by hand.
This is a male of a group of fireflies known as bent wings. If you look closely you might just see the tips of the elytra (the fore wings) are downturned. The end of the abdomen has a distinctive shape also it is trisinuate. From above this has an orange pronotum and black elytra so it will look like quite a few other species from far North Queensland.
Taken at Lakeland near Cooktown in February 2021 and thanks to Martin Lagerway for the use of this image.
Also found at the Claudie River, around Cairns, Mossman, Meringa, Gordonvale and Coorumba. Was seen at Gordonvale in a type of synchronous display on and beneath a species of Acacia where it displayed in small numbers. Female is flighted. We know very little about the ecology of this species or just where the larvae are developing.
From above this is another species with orange pronotum and black elytra so it resembles quite a few other species. However this is the surprise find in North Queensland - this genus Pyrophanes is common in the Philippines and we are not quite sure just how this species found its way into N. Queensland. It is found in Cape York peninsula at Coen, and Iron Range and Claudie River. Differs from all other Australian fireflies in that the male has the light organ in the last segment split into two, and at the junction between femur and tibia of the hind leg there is a distinctive set of short bristles - called a metafemoral comb. As this only occurs in males we think it might have some significance in a mating context but so far no one has observed just what it might be for. Females can fly.
Our largest firefly 10.7 to over 13 mm long and found in Cape York Peninsula in rain forest at Claudie River, Iron Range and Silver Plains near Coen. Another species with orange pronotum and black elytra but much bulkier looking than the others above (the ratio of its length to its width is smaller). It has a flighted female and the larvae look like those of an Atyphella. Has also been recorded from New Guinea. The pictures here are of Lloydiella wareo from New Guinea but are very similar in all respects to majuscula and will suffice until I find another good picture.