Why do glow worms glow?

Imagine you are deep within the Otway’s National Park, trekking through the lush greenery as the sun sets behind you. You arrive at the arched caves, stepping into their shadowy entrance until you are completely immersed in darkness. Except you realise, you have not been swallowed up by the dark, as there is light littering the ceilings of the caves, almost like stars in the sky. These blue lights illuminate the rocky walls, creating an enchanting spectacle for all to see.

These are in fact, not man-made lights, but completely natural lights made by the famous glow worms. Thousands of tourists visit these caves yearly, watching in fascination at this enchanting display of nature. But how do these small creatures create this mesmerizing glow?

About the Glow Worms

Despite the name, glow worms are in fact not worms at all, but instead are the larvae of a primitive fly, the fungus gnat. The larvae, which is a similar size to a caterpillar, spend nine months within these caves, feeding and transforming until they eventually become a full fly adult, resembling a large mosquito in appearance. The larvae stage is actually a lot longer than their adult period, which only lasts a couple of days before they perish.

The Science

Its natural blue/green light that has made these worms famous is all due to a chemical reaction. It occurs all inside the creature’s bodies, with a waste product, an enzyme, an energy molecule, and oxygen all reacting together to create this natural glow.

The Reason Why

These glow worms don’t light up just for our amusement, but instead, have a completely justifiable reason why they produce the glow. Basically, it is all for food! They use the light as a way to draw in prey, similar to a bug light zapper. The bugs become spellbound, slowly drifting closer and closer until they are caught in the worm’s web. These webs differ from a spider, instead of being a long silk thread that hangs from the ceiling of the cave, comparable to a long dangling drool. The sticky residue on the silk thread traps the insects, leaving them hanging there as the worm drags up the thread to devour their prey.

How to see them

Glow worms prefer hot, humid climates, and are found in both Australia and New Zealand. The tropical rainforests of the Gold Coast Hinterlands are one of the best places to see these creatures, with tours offered to visitors every day. Nestled within Springbrook National Park, they visitors trek through the lush greenery before seeing the creatures, giving them a wonderous and unforgettable journey into the spectacular Aussie rainforest.

Check out our Glow Worm Evening Tour today!

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