Glow worm: Basics, Bioluminescence and Lifecycle

  • Kingdom    Animalia
  • Phylum      Arthropoda
  • Class         Several Different Classes
  • Order         Several Different Orders
  • Family        Several Different Families
  • Genus       Many Different Genera
  • Species     Many Different Species

Glow worm Basics

Glow worms are enthralling creatures! In reality, “glow worm” is a popular term for a variety of insect species that use bioluminescence to shine. Glow worms pose species from four distinct beetle families, as well as fungus gnats from many genera.

When people say “glow-worm,” they usually mean a genus of Fungus Gnat (Arachnocampa) that glows blue or green when in the larval stage. These insects are incredible in that they dangle slime threads all around their nest. They release light from their abdomens, which is supposed to attract insects thanks to bioluminescent chemicals in their bodies. (This is why the genus name “arachno” means “spider.”)

Even little spots of light may attract a large number of insects in the dark tunnels where these insects reside. Insects always get tangled when they fly into the tangled mess of sticky fly-traps. Each trapped bug is simply reeled into the mouth of the larval glow worm and food is served! This species’ larvae grow into huge flying insects.

Why Do Glow worms Glow?

While they are the most well-known and well-known glow-worms, many other insect species create a glowing light while they are in their larval stage. Unlike Arachnocampa worms, however, not all glow-worms consume other insects. Fungus is a food source for several Fungus Gnat species (as their names suggest). Other “glow worms” are just the larval stages of certain beetles.

Each species of glow worm may have developed its bioluminescence for very different reasons, and they may not even be related. Bioluminescence is used by certain animals, such as the Arachnocampa, to attract and collect insects. Other species may be enticing mates, warding off predators, or attracting other insects to aid in the spread of the fungus they consume.

Interesting Insights from the Glow worm

Glow-worms are intriguing organisms thanks to the biological principles that enable them to survive. Glow-worms are an excellent starting point for learning about several very essential biological processes!

Glow worm Bioluminescence

Biological molecules absorb energy and emit it as light, which causes bioluminescence. The structure of certain biological molecules allows them to absorb energy from a variety of sources. This molecule is a protein that is triggered by ATP in the case of many insects.

When ATP gives these molecules’ energy, they slowly release it at a precise wavelength. The structure of the molecule determines the wavelength emitted. As a result, depending on the bioluminescent chemicals it creates, each variety of glow-worm emits a slightly different hue.

Bioluminescence is seen in many different species in nature, ranging from mushrooms to fish. Bioluminescence has a variety of uses, but most are connected to luring food, repelling predators, or locating partners in very dark environments.

Predatory Worms and Larvae

Although the concept of a predatory worm may make some people’s skin crawl, it is a relatively regular occurrence in nature. The most frequent image of a “worm” is of a typical garden earthworm. It’s completely safe, albeit a little slimy.

In nature, however, if a niche is open, the most numerous species usually fills it. The earthworm is a true worm that belongs to the Phylum Annelida. However, this phylum also includes a number of huge predatory worms with hideous-looking teeth that are employed to catch and consume prey.

Because they hunt using a sticky thread, Fungus Gnat glow-worms that are active predators are actually considerably fewer. Few insects have developed weapons for trapping flying insects from a fixed posture, with the exception of spiders. Nonetheless, many larvae have discovered predatory habitats. Aquatic insects and even tiny fish are aggressively hunted by dragonfly larvae. Antlion larvae construct ant and other tiny bug traps in the sand.

Common Names vs. Scientific Names

The term “glow worm” is only a nickname. It may refer to a variety of different species depending on where you are. If someone mentions glow-worms in New Zealand, you have to presume they’re referring to a member of the Arachnocampa genus. If you’re in the United States, they might be referring to any number of luminous beetle larvae.

As we begin to explore and create a more nuanced knowledge of life on Earth, scientists devise scientific names for creatures to avert this calamity. The vast quantity of variation in our environment simply cannot be covered by common names. The word “glow-worm” refers to hundreds of distinct kinds of glowing insects and does not have a universal meaning.

It’s for this reason that scientists must use scientific names!


  1. net Editors. “Glow-worm.”Biology Dictionary, Biologydictionary.net, 08 Jun. 2020, https://biologydictionary.net/glow-worm/.
  2. net Editors. (2020, June 08). Glow-worm. Retrieved from https://biologydictionary.net/glow-worm/
  3. net Editors. “Glow-worm.” Biology Dictionary. Biologydictionary.net, June 08, 2020. https://biologydictionary.net/glow-worm/.
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