Science Communication

Let’s shine a light on fireflies

Ten years after I started collating the literature about fireflies in Malaysia, still not much information is published about these wonderful insects. While this problem is not restricted to invertebrate studies, addressing it was seen to be challenging as Ballantyne (2012, p. 4) points out:

you do not own your fauna

This is because most firefly collections were made by Europeans during colonial periods, and thus the collections were sold / donated to European museums especially to the UK and Paris for permanent repositories. Without any type specimens in local museums and no further taxonomic revisions being done since centuries ago, identified collections in Malaysia / Singapore are still scarce.

ZMUM coll-2
One of the very rare firefly specimen collections at Museum of Zoology, University of Malaya waiting to be identified. Specimens with circular-shaped labels are fireflies collected from Singapore at least a century ago.

But that is not our only problem. Our fireflies, like other invertebrate fauna in Southeast Asian region, are also suffering greatly from “seven impediments in invertebrate conservationsensu Cardoso et al. (2011), primarily due to lack of such experts from our region.

It is unfortunate that we may not be able to get our precious insects (however long dead in the European museums) back to our countries, perhaps forever. Luckily we can gain much through scientific research collaborations and networking. And most importantly,  we need to  share our research findings with a wider audience – this is what kelipx2 for!


  • Ballantyne, L. A. 2012. Taxonomy – help or hindrance in Southeast Asia? Keynote address Proceedings of the Second International Firefly Symposium, Malaysia, Lampyrid 2, 1-12.
  • Cardoso, P., Erwin, T. L., Borges, P. A., & New, T. R. 2011. The seven impediments in invertebrate conservation and how to overcome them. Biological Conservation, 144(11), 2647-2655.