Bright lights and progress put glow-worms in the dark

A A A

Glow-worms glimmering in the night have for centuries been a source of fascination to poets, children and lovers.

Glow-worms glimmering in the night have for centuries been a source of fascination to poets, children and lovers.

But a study now suggests that the population may be dwindling or that the attraction of walking down country lanes after dark has dwindled and we simply no longer notice the presence of the insects.

Changes in human lifestyle mean that even people living near to colonies of the creatures are no longer aware of them, says John Tyler, co-author of the paper "Are Glow-worms Disappearing?" in the current issue of British Wildlife.

"Children used to collect them in match boxes but now they don't play in the countryside as they did in former decades," he says. "Also, since the advent of cars, adults walk along country lanes after dark less often."

Glow-worms have long cast their spell over humans. Shakespeare mentioned them at the end of the Ghost's speech in Act 1 of Hamlet: "The glow-worm shows the matin to be near/And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire."

In 1648, the poet Robert Herrick used a glow-worm as an allusion in a romantic epistolatory poem The Night-Piece, to Julia. He wrote: "Her eyes the glow-worm lend thee/The shooting stars attend thee."

Fifty years ago, enterprising campers were known to collect them in jam jars to provide enough light to enable them to read in their tents after darkness had fallen.

But the study says that the glow-worm population is likely to be reduced. "Many habitats which once supported glow-worms have been completely destroyed through road-building, urban development and conversion to arable fields, improved pasture and forestry plantations," the study says.

"Since the 1940s, 97 per cent of lowland flower-rich grassland, 80 per cent of chalk and limestone grassland and 67 per cent of hedge rows have been destroyed. The destruction of these important glow-worm habitats must have had a severe impact on populations."

But increases in man-made lighting could further have affected numbers, particularly of males, which follow the glow of the female. "Male glow-worms are also attracted to house lights, often in large numbers. As well as actively attracting males, the glare of artificial lights may also reduce the visibility of the female's glow."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map