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Researcher propagates fireflies artificially

By Huang Zhiling | | Updated: 2018-03-27 21:12

It is more like science fiction than reality when people stay at a hot springs or walk in a park or in the courtyard of a hotel in the evening, admiring many fireflies in the woods.

Fireflies, usually found in the wild and vanishing rapidly in the aftermath of unprecedented urbanization, may stage a comeback not only in the countryside but also urban areas, thanks to the painstaking efforts of a scientist in Southwest China's Sichuan province.

Cao Chengquan, a 38-year-old professor at the School of Life Science at the province's Leshan Normal University, has devoted himself to the artificial propagation of fireflies for nearly a decade, resulting in about 5,000 fireflies.

"We have introduced fireflies to a few parks, hotels and hot springs in some parts of the country to let people have a look at them, love them and forge a sense of conservation," Cao said.

After receiving his doctoral degree in the field of entomology at Shandong Agricultural University in East China's Shandong province in 2008, Cao started working at Leshan Normal University in Sichuan.

One night, he found on campus a very large firefly the size of a little finger. Later, he found more than 10 species of fireflies around the university and on nearby Mount Emei. "Two species had never been found before," he said.

He led students in studying how to artificially propagate fireflies in the second half of 2008.

"We observed what fireflies ate so that we could feed them. We learned young fireflies liked eating snails and earthworms and adults liked dew," Cao said.

By 2016, his technology to artificially propagate fireflies had become very sophisticated. He has bred three species of fireflies - half aquatic, terrestrial and water fireflies - in his laboratory at Leshan Normal University.

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