PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — The Keystone State has its own flower, tree, dog, song, and bird. But did you know that the state has its own designated insect?

The Pennsylvania Firefly, also known as a lighting bug is Pennsylvania’s state insect.

The official name of the insect is Photuris pennsylvanica. The insect was designated as the official state insect in 1974 when elementary students in the town of Upper Darby noticed that Maryland adopted its own state insect and wanted to do the same for Pennsylvania. They submitted proposals to the General Assembly, and the firefly was chosen on April 10, 1974.

The firefly is relatively plain-looking during the day, but at night it is a whole different story. Fireflies produce this light using special organs in their abdomens, using chemicals called luciferin, as well as enzymes called luciferases, oxygen, and other chemicals. Scientists believe that these insects control the flashing by regulating how much oxygen goes into the organ that produces the light.

Fireflies are not flies, in fact, they are beetles. Their larvae will feed on other soft-bodied invertebrates such as snails, slugs, and worms.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, firefly populations are declining, in part due to:

  • Habitat loss and degradation
  • Light pollution
  • Pesticide use
  • Overharvesting
  • Climate change

The department said that there are ways you can help with the conservation of the firefly. You can participate in the annual Firefly Watch, where you spend 10 minutes once a week during firefly season observing them in your backyard or field. Another way to help is by turning your lights off at night at home and by providing firefly habitat.

You can make a firefly habitat by having dense leaf litter and native vegetation in a corner of your yard to help shelter these insects and attract their favorite food sources such as slugs and earthworms.