Observations from Angela Lennox, DVM:

It’s Mid Summer, and the Lightning Bugs are Out!

Do you know which common exotic pet can die from eating just ONE of them?

Most exotic pets do not eat bugs.  However, a number of our most popular reptile pets consume insects as a regular part of their diet.  American bullfrogs have been know to eat lightning bugs, and seem to suffer no harm from doing so. However, the Bearded Dragon, which is not native to the US, appears extremely sensitive to the enzymes that produce the light.  Nearly every year we have at least one death in pet bearded dragons that have been fed fireflies, or found them on their own while outdoors.

Lighting bugs and other “bioluminescent” insects have an enzyme called luciferase, which combines with luciferin to produce a chemical reaction and light. It’s not clear exactly what is toxic, and which reptiles can eat them without illness. For this reason, our recommendation is to never feed them to pet lizards.  Stick with mealworms, crickets, grasshoppers, most moths and flies. Avoid anything that stings as well.

For more than you ever want to know about fireflies and the chemical reactions that cause bioluminescence, go here:  onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/iub.134/pfd, or look up Luciferase on Wikipedia.