Glowworms: Hainan’s Estival Elves of the Night

By Chen Shumin / HICN / Updated: 10:39,06-June-2022

When night falls around central Hainan’s Wuzhi Mountain in summer, glittering glowworms (also known as ‘fireflies’) scatter along the rivers and valleys like nocturnal elves, creating a romantic and dreamy landscape against the tranquil night.

Star-like glowworms scattered around the valleys in Wuzhishan’s Shuiman Township. LI TIANPING

According to Wu Xiuling, project director of a nature conservation foundation in Hainan, three to four varieties of glowworms are commonly seen in Hainan’s rainforest and wetlands during summer and autumn, and can be found in places such as brooks at the foot of Diaoluo Mountain, the wetlands of Tanfengyang and Wuyuanhe in Haikou, and Danzhou’s Lanyang Hot Spring.

 

A glowworm ready to fly. LI TIANPING

A survey from the College of Plant Science & Technology of Huazhong Agricultural University nine years ago showed that a total of fifteen species of glowworms had been discovered on Hainan Island, including nine unknown varieties and six rare species, with some species classified as endangered.

Currently, most of the glowworms found around Wuzhi Mountain belong to the Yellow-Edge variety, which can be seen across the province in places such as rain forests, valleys, rice fields, and ponds. In addition, there are some unknown glowworm varieties which were discovered in Haikou’s Dongzhaigang Mangrove National Nature Reserve.

A glowworm perches on a blade of grass in Shuiman Township. LI TIANPING

Glowworms are particular about their living environment including the quality of air, water, soil, and vegetation. An abundance of glowworms in any one location usually indicates the existence of a good ecosystem there.

A flock of glowworms “marching” over the grassland. LI TIANPING

Shuiman Township in Wuzhi Mountain, where temperatures remain relatively stable year-round, has long been a favored habitat for ‘night elves’ such as Luciola Anceyi Olivier and Yellow-Edge Glowworms. In addition to suitable temperatures, fertile soil - thanks to many organic tea plantations that have been developed in the township without any chemical pesticides – coupled with microbial decomposition of weeds in the plantation have made the township a paradise for the glowworms.

Photo taken on May 19 shows a cluster of glowworms flying over a tea plantation in Shuiman Township. LI TIANPING

Experts suggest that while appreciating the fairy-like glowworms, we should be conscious of protecting nature and other animals — be aware not to catch the glowworms, not to disturb them with artificial light sources, and not to damage their habitat.

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