Seeing loads of fireflies also known as lightning bugs flying around in the night sky is always a cool sight. These little insects aren’t as cute as you may think though...
Do chickens eat fireflies? My chickens have never shown any interest in eating fireflies. I’ve heard the same from other owners too. Lightning bugs are potentially toxic, so it appears that (most) chickens seem to intuitively know this.
What Are Fireflies?
If you have fireflies where you live you probably know them as glowing flies that buzz around marshy areas at night time.
There’s a lot more to these little insects that you’re probably aware of, however.
First of all, you need to be aware that they are actually very toxic. They possess toxins called lucibufagins, which can cause some serious health issues to small animals and eating just one firefly can prove fatal.
They are interesting little bugs. They belong to the same family as glowworms, which is little surprise as they glow in a similar fashion. They are also actually beetles, which is a little more surprising.
If you see one clearly in the daylight they look more like a beetle or a cockroach than they do a fly.
There are more than 2,000 species of lighting bug. Most live in warm and humid conditions, or if found in drier climates they’ll usually be seen around marshlands and damp areas to get some moisture.
In the U.S. as far as I can tell they are most commonly found in Florida, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
Are Lightning Bugs Toxic to Chickens?
Yes, I have to say that lightning bugs are going to be toxic to chickens if they eat them.
I couldn’t find any accounts from backyard flock owners where they knew their chickens had eaten one, so I can’t comment on how poisonous they are.
This is because chickens tend not to eat them. There are a number of plants, foods, and bugs that chickens seem to instinctively know are toxic that they leave well alone.
It’s probably because chickens aren’t far removed from their wild ancestor the Red Junglefowl. Wild chickens are very adept and smart about surviving in the wild, so I’m sure they carry some of these smarts and survival instincts.
Lizards, on the other hand, are not so smart. There are a number of recorded deaths to bearded dragons and other lizards every year due to eating fireflies.
Just one firefly is enough to send a bearded dragon into shock and they can die within 2 hours from firefly toxicosis.
It appears that the glow they have isn’t just to help them give us a show at night. It’s a warning to predators that they are toxic and poisonous if eaten.
What Bugs and Insects Can Chickens Eat?
Chickens are natural foragers, they love scratching around for bugs to eat. Most bugs and insects are perfectly fine, and even help provide some great nutrition.
Some of the common bugs chickens find and gobble up in the backyard include:
I could go on and on….
Which Bugs Should Chickens Not Eat?
It’s probably more important to be aware of what bugs chickens shouldn’t eat than the ones that are good for them.
Apart from fireflies, the other possible threats you need to be aware of are any insects that are known to be dangerous.
People usually know when there are toxic or poisonous bugs in their area. It’s something that can prove beneficial to you as well as your flock.
Across the U.S., some of the main culprits are poisonous spiders, such as the Brown Recluse and the Black Widow. As well as some poisonous species of caterpillars, scorpions, like the Striped Bark, large numbers of fire ants or hornets, etc.
Related - Do chickens eat mosquitoes? How chickens actually repel mosquitoes.
In Summary - Do Chickens Eat Fireflies?
Fireflies are known to carry a toxin that is deadly to reptiles, and harmful to small animals and birds.
The good news is that I couldn’t find any accounts of chickens eating them. But it’s smart to assume that they are toxic to chickens. So, anything you can do to avoid your chooks coming into contact with lighting bugs is advisable.
Now you know this, maybe you’ll distance yourself from them a little more too. I know I do!
Fireflies toxic to exotic pets - Veterinary Practice News
Fireflies - National Geographic