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Silent Sparks:
The Wondrous World of Fireflies
Sara Lewis

One of Science News’ Favorite Books of 2016
One of Seattle Times’ 18 books of 2016 perfect for the bookworm in your life
Honorable Mention for the 2017 PROSE Award in Popular Science and Popular Mathematics, Association of American Publishers

Hardcover | 2016 | $29.95 | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691162683
240 pp. | 8 x 10 | 50 color illus. 5 halftones. 3 line illus. 6 maps.
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The love and lies of fireflies

Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies book trailer

For centuries, the beauty of fireflies has evoked wonder and delight. Yet for most of us, fireflies remain shrouded in mystery: How do fireflies make their light? What are they saying with their flashing? And what do fireflies look for in a mate? In Silent Sparks, noted biologist and firefly expert Sara Lewis dives into the fascinating world of fireflies and reveals the most up-to-date discoveries about these beloved insects. From the meadows of New England and the hills of the Great Smoky Mountains, to the rivers of Japan and mangrove forests of Malaysia, this beautifully illustrated and accessible book uncovers the remarkable, dramatic stories of birth, courtship, romance, sex, deceit, poison, and death among fireflies.

The nearly two thousand species of fireflies worldwide have evolved in different ways—and while most mate through the aerial language of blinking lights, not all do. Lewis introduces us to fireflies that don't light up at all, relying on wind-borne perfumes to find mates, and we encounter glow-worm fireflies, whose plump, wingless females never fly. We go behind the scenes to meet inquisitive scientists who have dedicated their lives to understanding fireflies, and we learn about various modern threats including light pollution and habitat destruction. In the last section of the book, Lewis provides a field guide for North American fireflies, enabling us to identify them in our own backyards and neighborhoods. This concise, handy guide includes distinguishing features, habits, and range maps for the most commonly encountered fireflies, as well as a gear list.

A passionate exploration of one of the world's most charismatic and admired insects, Silent Sparks will inspire us to reconnect with the natural world.

Sara Lewis, who has been captivated by fireflies for nearly three decades, is a professor in the Department of Biology at Tufts University. Her work has been featured in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Scientific American, and USA Today. Lewis lives with her husband in Lincoln, Massachusetts.


"An illuminating peek into a fascinating corner of field biology."--Barb Kiser, Nature

"[A] beautiful new book."--Liz Langley,

"Over millennia, fireflies have followed widely varied evolutionary paths. In fact, nearly 2,000 species of fireflies have been discovered globally. This level of complexity might present a serious narrative challenge for some, but Tufts University biologist Sara Lewis's fascination with these insects is captivating and infectious."--American Scientist

"An exploration of the little-known lives of fireflies. More so than most insects, fireflies capture our attention--and imagination--for their bioluminescence. Whether flitting across a suburban backyard or clustering in groups of thousands in the Great Smoky Mountains, these enigmatic beetles put on serious light shows after dusk, blanketing the landscape with synchronous patterns. It seems downright romantic--and, writes Lewis (Biology/Tufts Univ.) in this wide-ranging yet intimate narrative, it is indeed these flashes that ignite firefly courtship. In prose that is plenty accessible for younger readers, the author doesn't skimp on the details as she divulges ‘some of fireflies' most deeply held secrets'. . . . A delightful book sure to charm nature lovers of all ages."--Kirkus

"Lewis takes readers into the realm of fireflies. . . . An excellent option for insect fans and anyone curious about the lightning bugs in their yards."--Library Journal (starred review)

"[A]n intense, almost obsessive book describing the radiantly appealing aspects of the firefly world."--Washington Post

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Table of Contents:

Preface ix
CHAPTER 1 Silent Sparks 1
CHAPTER 2 Lifestyles of the Stars 13
CHAPTER 3 Splendors in the Grass 28
CHAPTER 4 With This Bling, I Thee Wed 45
CHAPTER 5 Dreams of Flying 61
CHAPTER 6 The Making of a Flasher 80
CHAPTER 7 Poisonous Attractions 100
CHAPTER 8 Lights Out for Fireflies? 119


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