Firefly toxicity?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by AinaWGSD, Jun 23, 2010.

  1. AinaWGSD

    AinaWGSD Songster

    Apr 2, 2010
    Sullivan, IL
    I'm not sure if this would be better here or in the "predators and pests" section, but since fireflies are hardly predators and rarely considered pests I figured I'd try here. Has anyone ever had any issues with chickens getting sick from eating fireflies? I honestly never would have thought about it, but we had a bearded dragon come into work today (I work at a vet that sees exotics as well as cats and dogs) whose owners had fed him a firefly last week. When we called the animal poison control hotline to ask about it, their response was, "It's still alive?" (the answer BTW is yes, but probably not for long) Apparently fireflies are extremely toxic. Which makes sense, after all something as slow-moving and visible as a firefly would just about have to be toxic in order to not be wiped out by predators. But I'd just never thought about it before, and now I'm a just little bit concerned since our coop is in the part of our yard that is most attractive to fireflies.
  2. rittert3

    rittert3 Songster

    May 1, 2009
    Ks (Manhattan area)
    [​IMG] I did know they were toxic to beardies after working in the pet trade and caring for several myself. I have never heard about them being toxic to anything else, I'm interested also.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2010
  3. Kedreeva

    Kedreeva Longfeather Lane 8 Years

    Jun 10, 2010
    "Researchers are uncovering chemicals in fireflies that are related to their luminescence. Some of these chemicals are cardenolides, similar to digitalis. Some are like the bufodienolides found in toads. These flying beetles also contain lucibufagins, a steroidal pyrone. Luciferin, a protein, circulates through the insect's blood stream, making the entire insect toxic to a wide variety of predators."

    So the short answer is yes: they are.

    The long answer is that yes, they are, but as most chickens are asleep during the time when fireflies are out, there's not much of a chance of them crossing paths in a capacity for harm. There may also be some instinct involved (though I dunno, chickens have brains the size of a pea) in not picking at something that gives a "Warning: I'm toxic" glow.

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