Glow Worms and the Elegant Solution

By Rich Edwards

I have always been fascinated by ‘Elegant Solutions’ An ‘Elegant Solution’, at least according to one of my previous bosses, is one where the outputs of the first process become the inputs of the second process and so on, until the last process matches up with the first process thereby closing the circle. The best example in human history is agriculture. The farmer uses draft animals to plow the field, but the cows and horses produce large quantities of smelly outputs.

These outputs, however, became inputs to the plants as fertilizer. The unintended consequences of growing more plants for food means there is more straw, hay and silage but these things are inputs for the draft animals as food and bedding.

When we first bought our house on Logie Trail Road, I got to witness first hand the size and quantity of slugs that live in the woods of the Northwest. The slugs we have are enormous; six, seven, eight inches long; bigger than dill pickles. They were everywhere; on the house, in the yard, on the porch all over the footpaths. Killing the slugs seemed like a lot of work, so I adopted a strong anti-chemical stance and a strong non-violent approach to all of God’s creatures. I have studied enough religion and philosophy to know which doctrines to adhere to when there is unpleasant work to be avoided. I was trying to figure out a way to avoid cleaning up after the family dog when I discovered that slugs eat dog poop. A-hah! I said. I told my wife that I don’t need to clean up dog poop any more because slugs eat it.

They really do a fine job. Her reply took at least 10 full minutes and contained the words lazy, slob-like, disgusting, and a few other words I dare not repeat here. Explaining my recent adoption of green living and the principles of Mahatma Gandhi got me nowhere and merely helped to extend her already lengthy reply.

We have a trail behind our house and one night I returned at dusk and I noticed a small, steady green light coming from something beside the trail. The light looked like the little green light that comes on any of the one million electronic gadgets that pervade today’s modern household. It was very similar to the ‘Num Lock’ light on my keyboard. I picked up a handful of leaves that contained the small light and took it back to my house.
Back inside I found that the little green light is produced by the butt of a tiny little beetle. I showed my wife and daughter the little glow worm and we were all very excited. Now, whenever we are out at night, we count how many glow worms we can find. Some nights we find none, but some nights, especially a few days after a good rain, we can find a dozen or more on the trail near the house.

After searching all over the internet using the search terms ‘Oregon’ and ‘Glow Worms’ I found that lots of people from Oregon visit places that have glow worms; like New Zealand for example. (I have been there. They have fantastic glow worms.)

After quite a bit more searching, I found sketches, photos and descriptions of my glow worm, which. One web site calls the Douglas Fir Glowworm (Pterotus obscuripennis). According to the website, Pterotus obscuripennis are “A PREDETOR OF SLUGS”. A-HA!! I said. Now I have all the information necessary to not have to kill slugs (Food for glow worms) and to not have to clean up dog poop (food for slugs). Life is grand when you can find a truly ‘Elegant Solution’.

From the website: htm :
“They chemically protect themselves by tasting foul-advertising their nastiness by showy colors. After trying one or two, a predator learns to leave them alone.”

From the website: htm :
Pterotinae (anelytrous females) LAMPYRIDAE
Classification. Polyphaga: Elateriformia.
Distribution. Pterotus obscuripennis LeConte occurs from western Washington and Oregon to northern Baja California
Biology. Larval Pterotus feed primarily on slugs, while adults may not feed.
Female Pterotus obscuripennis on left showing its displaying bio-luminescent tail
Male Pterotus obscuripennis on right.

Source: http://whatsthatbug. com/beetles9.html