The firefly was designated the official state insect of Tennessee in 1975. A small, unremarkable beetle by day, the firefly transforms midsummer nights into a fairyland of tiny, brilliant twinkling lights - a wonder of nature. Commonly called "lightning bug." The most familiar species of firefly in Tennessee is Photinus pyralls.
The firefly produces light through an efficient chemical reaction using special photic organs, with very little heat given off as wasted energy. One or both sexes use species-specific flash patterns to attract members of the opposite sex (though not all firefly species are bioluminescent as adults). These signals range from a continuous glow, to discrete single flashes, to "flash-trains" composed of multi-pulsed flashes.
In most North American species of firefly , the males fly about flashing their species-specific flash pattern, while females are typically perched on vegetation near the ground. When a flashing male attracts a female, she responds at a fixed time delay after the male's last flash. A short flash dialogue may ensue between the fireflies as the male firefly locates her position and descends to mate.
Tennessee recognizes three other insects as state symbols: the honeybee, ladybug, and the zebra swallowtail butterfly.