I've spotted a lot of them in our backyard in northwest Rochester, but what do we call them here in Minnesota?

When I was a kid growing up in central Wisconsin, whenever we'd see one of those insects whose mid-section lights up, we'd refer to them as lightning bugs. But, I've also heard them referred to as fireflies too-- especially after Owatonna native, Adam Young's project, Owl City, had that hit song called 'Fireflies' back in 2009.

So which one is correct? Well, unlike other colloquialisms that will let everyone know you aren't a Minnesota native if you use them (like, the Wisconsin native in me that might still call a water fountain a 'bubbler'), apparently either one is okay to say here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

In fact, according to the Minnesota-based website, GardenBite.com, the names are pretty much interchangeable in our neck of the woods. But, they're actually neither a bug nor a fly. The site notes that they're actually... a beetle. And, they flash in a very specific code-- to find a mate.

"Fireflies flash in different sequences and also have different colors. Males will signal they’re available and the females then decide if they want to respond with their own flash. There are many species, how many live in the Upper Midwest, is still a slight mystery," the site noted.

You can find a much more in-depth, scientific explanation just what causes a lightning bug to light up from this Friends of the Mississippi River page. But whether you call them lightning bugs or fireflies, they're still pretty cool to see at dusk out in your backyard!

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