Glowworms: How These Luminous Creatures Create Their Enchanting Glow

By | July 28, 2022

Glowworms are luminous worm-like creatures that emit blue-green light, which can glow continuously for more than 24 hours. The source of this light is called bioluminescence and it comes from an organ near the creatures’ tails that is similar to a human kidney. The bioluminescence is created through a reaction of an enzyme called luciferase and a variety of other chemicals that cause this natural, blue-green glow. Glowworms live in cool, moist caves or overhangs in the Blue Mountains and they are one of nature’s most enchanting creatures.

Glowworms are not actually worms, but the larvae of fungus gnats, an insect that looks like a mosquito. There are two types of fungus gnats – those that feed on fungi like mushrooms, and those that are carnivorous and feed on other smaller insects.

Glowworm Tunnel Newnes

What are Glowworms?
Glowworms are bioluminescent creatures that emit light naturally from an organ near their tails. The light is created through a reaction of an enzyme called luciferase and a variety of other chemicals. This natural, blue-green glow is truly enchanting.

It’s been rumoured that one can only see the magic of the glowworm in the dark for it to work its full magic. It’s said to be because if you see them in daylight, you can’t appreciate how beautiful they really are because your eyes adjust to daylight quickly so when you see them in the dark, it’s like seeing them for the first time again!


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What do Glowworms Look Like?
Glowworms are small, slender creatures that are often compared to worms or caterpillars. They can be found in a variety of colors, but most commonly they are a pale green or yellow. Some glowworms even have stripes running down their backs. They range in size from about half an inch to two inches long. The bioluminescence is created through a reaction of an enzyme called luciferase and a variety of other chemicals that cause this natural, blue-green glow.

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They are usually nocturnal creatures, meaning they only come out at night to hunt for food. The females lay eggs after mating with the males, who will die shortly after the eggs hatch and grow into larvae. After these larvae pupate into adults and emerge from the soil as fully grown worms, they will stay alive for just one year before dying naturally

Where Can I See Glowworms?
You can find glowworms in all sorts of dark, dank places—but there are a few spots where they really put on a good show. In Blue Mountains, you can see them in the Newnes glowworm Tunnel and at Horseshow Falls in Hazelbrook.

In the Newnes Glowworm tunnel, it’s said that as many as 100,000 glowworms inhabit the tunnel making it a perfect family adventure or getaway with your mates.

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What Do Glowworms Eat?
Glowworms are actually the larvae of fungus gnats, and they only live for about six weeks. In that short time, they must eat a lot to build up enough energy to transform into an adult fly. So, what do glowworms eat? Mostly other insects that become caught in their sticky webs. However, they will also consume nectar and other sweet substances. When it is night-time, they use their bioluminescence to attract more prey by creating a large lure at the end of their tail. Once captured, the insect is eaten and digested before being used as nutrients for the larva.

Fascinatingly, there is evidence suggesting that glowworms don’t just create light out of nothing—instead, this light might be created from parts of animals they have already consumed!


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How Do I Take Photos of Bioluminescent Organisms?
If you want to take your own photos of these amazing creatures, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, find a place where they’re known to live. The Horseshow Falls in Hazelbrook and the Newnes glowworm Tunnel are both great locations. Second, bring a tripod and set your camera to a long exposure so you can capture the light show. And finally, have patience! It takes time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and for the glowworms to put on their display.

  • Do not shine your torch directly at the glow worms
  • Do not use flash photography
  • Do not smoke
  • Keep noise to a minimum
  • Do not touch them

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Are There Any Other Natural Phenomena That Emit Light?
The Newnes Glowworm Tunnel is one of the best places to see glowworms in Australia. But these aren’t the only creatures that produce light! Another well-known example is fireflies, which use bioluminescence to attract mates. However, did you know that there are also plenty of other animals, fungi, and even bacteria that can emit light?

Additionally, many fungus species are bioluminescent; for instance, jack-o’-lanterns or foxfire emit a blue or orange glow at night. Finally, some species of luminous bacteria will emit a greenish light in order to avoid harmful ultraviolet rays that could kill them.

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