Blogger - Agnes Rothon

The good news is that another creature, the glow worm, has decided to call RSPB Lakenheath Fen nature reserve its home. My first experience of glow worms came when reading Roald Dahl’s classic novel James and the Giant Peach as a boy - one of the creatures that James shares his epic journey in the peach with is a glow worm.  I learnt from the book that they are curious creatures – perhaps one of the reasons that Dahl chose to include them in the first place.

James and the Giant Peach reveals to readers that glow worms are not actually worms at all but are in fact beetles. Most adult beetles can fly, but a few, such as female glow worms and weevils have lost the ability to fly and rely on crawling to get around instead. Imagine then, the trip that the individuals found at Lakenheath Fen must have suffered to colonise a new area and start to call the reserve their home!

The males will have had an easier time of it than the females though. Whilst the females are only able to crawl, the males are able to fly and wing their way to a mate having been attracted by her ‘glow’. The female glow worm releases this ‘light energy’ through a chemical reaction inside her cells. These chemicals also taste bad to any predators and actually cause vomiting. What males have in wingspan however they lack in luminescence; the males themselves only glow very faintly.

 Neither of the adults feed during their lifetime. The larvae do though, their favourite food being snails. The RSPB are therefore hopeful that the population of glow worms will thrive at Lakenheath - there are plenty of snails to be found on the reserve. Moreover, there is already a good number of glow worms at nearby Thetford Forest meaning that colonisation of the surrounding area isn’t out of the question. Let’s hope that more flying males will find their way to Lakenheath and that the females will be brave enough to endure the arduous journey on the ground. Reserve wardens will certainly be having a good look around the reserve at night over the next few months to see if more glow worms have arrived.

 Glow worms to garden birds, bumblebees to beetles - you too can Give Nature a Home in you garden. Visit http://homes.rspb.org.uk/ for lots of information on simple things that you can do to help make your patch a haven for wildlife. Help the RSPB build a million homes for nature! 

As featured in the Eastern Daily Press, Saturday 3 August

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