Warning: Fireflies Toxic to Some AnimalsHope you all had a great 4th of July filled with lots of fireworks.

Summer night skies in our neck of the woods often glitter with another kind of light show — the dance of the fireflies (often called lightning bugs). Today we received some sad news that one of our customers lost his bearded dragon after it ate a lightning bug. This is the second such incidence we have heard of in the 18 years we’ve owned The Animal Store, so we did a little research.

It turns out that these beautiful members of the insect world belong to the genus Photinus, which contain chemicals called lucibufagins that are deadly to bearded dragons. There is also evidence that these chemicals can harm or kills other lizards, such as African chameleons. When a lizard eats a firefly, symptoms occur very quickly and death can occur within an hour.

Though we have not heard of any other pets dying because they have eaten fireflies, pet owners are warned to keep them away from all lizards, birds and amphibians — even dogs.

What can you do to keep your animal safe? Never feed a firefly to your pet. We all know what lightning bugs look like in the dark, but learn to recognize them when the aren’t flashing (see the photo above). Keep an insect-proof cover and screens on your pet’s cage — especially important if you take your lizard out in the summer. Be vigilant. Just one firefly can be deadly. If you see your pet eat a firefly, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Here are a few other reminders to help keep your pets safe during the summer months. Be sure they have plenty of fresh water, have shade available if you take them outside, and try to walk them in the cooler hours of the morning or evening. Perhaps most important, never leave an animal unattended in a car during the summer, where temperatures can reach deadly levels in just a few minutes. Be safe and have a great summer.

Photo credit: firefly 0877 by art farmer via a Creative Commons license