"Science, Sensationalism, and the Lessons of ‘Insectageddon’"

"When the media fails to verify the rigor and credibility of a scientific study — or ignores its shortcomings entirely — everyone loses."

"When I was growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, long before we spent our evenings drawn to the soft glow of electronic devices, I would sit down in my grandparents’ backyard on summer nights and watch the air twinkle with fireflies. They allowed me to catch a few in a jar, so I could study their tiny anatomy amid brief bursts of light from within. But I was always made to set the insects free to continue their light show — or, frankly, to become food for frogs, spiders, and other creatures of the night.

Fast-forward 20 years and I was teaching science to preschoolers, indulging my nostalgia with a lesson on the Lampyridae family of beetles, commonly known as fireflies or lightning bugs.

My budding scientists learned to pronounce the word “bioluminescence” — the chemical reaction inside a firefly’s abdomen that produces light — and I had them fashion a model firefly using a soda bottle for a body, with pipe-cleaner antenna and construction-paper wings. We lit it up from the inside with a glow stick. The kids especially loved getting the “mark of a firefly” — a dab of glow-in-the-dark paint on the forehead meant to simulate the bugs’ light-emitting enzyme — and lining up in the dim park bathroom to see the radiant dots in the mirror."

Teresa Carr reports for Undark May 15, 2019.

Source: Undark, 05/16/2019