Glow Worms (Arachnocampa)

If you think you can make an average, everyday worm glow in the dark by feeding it certain foods or poking it with a stick, think again! Not to be confused with glow worm beetles, glow worms have the amazing ability to produce light naturally and they can only be found in Australia and New Zealand.

The process used to produce light is called bioluminescence. During this biochemical reaction several components work together to emit light. These components include: adenosine triphosphate or ATP (an energy molecule), luciferin (a waste product), luciferase (an enzyme) and pure oxygen. Some bacteria, fungi, and marine animals also have the ability to produce light as a protective device, a mating call or to catch prey. In some deep-sea forms, luminous organs may also serve as lanterns.

While the name “glow worm” may conjure up images of fluorescent green inch worms or the earthworms that can be found in just about any garden or on any sidewalk, a glow worm isn’t a worm at all! A glow worm is actually the larva of a gnat. In simple terms, it is a “luminous larva.” These luminous larvae are typically found in staggering numbers in dark caves and under rocky overhangs throughout Australia and New Zealand. Many of Australia’s caves and overhangs are major tourist attractions that currently rake in more than $6 million dollars each year by attracting hundreds of visitors per night.

One of the most popular glow worm attractions for tourists is Australia’s Natural Bridge Colony. Located in Springbrook National Park, Natural Bridge Colony is home to the largest colony of glow worms in the world. On any given day (at sunset), hundreds of tourists can be seen exploring the overhangs and crevices filled with literally millions of glow worms. Although the surrounding area is quite dark during this time, it appears as if the sun is shining from the overhangs and crevices of the area.

No Paywall Here!
All About Worms is and always has been a free resource. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or make you give us your email address, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to pay our research authors, and to run and maintain the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep All About Worms free?
Click for amount options
Other Amount:
What info did we provide for you today?:

While the darkest and most sheltered areas such as caves and overhangs are the most popular places to find glow worms, they can also be found in wet soil, in trees, beside walking tracks, along creek embankments, and on woodland rides and heathland.

Glow worms use their natural light, which emits from the abdomen, to attract prey such as Phorids (hunchback flies), Chironomids (midges), Psychodids (small black flies) and small snails. The glow worm creates a silk web (called a “snare”) made of mucus and long “fishing lines,” along with mucus, to catch and immobilize prey. The fishing lines can reach up to nearly one and half feet in length. Once the glow worms’ prey has been caught in the line or web, the glow worm feels the vibration of the catch and begins pulling it up using its mouth. The glow worm eats its prey whole or by feeding off of the insects’ juices. When the glow worm has had its fill, it doesn’t emit light until it works up an appetite again. The hungrier the glow worm is, the brighter the light will be.

Glow worms use their light to do more than just catch prey. The adult female glow worm also uses the light to attract the male glow worm. Once the female glow worm mates, she may eventually lay more than 120 eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae begin to glow almost immediately.

Natural Bridge, Springbrook National Park
Phone: 13 0013 0372
Toll Free: 1300 130 372
Email: csc@epa.qld.gov.au
Web: www.epa.qld.gov.au/projects/park/index.cgi?parkid=31

Submit a Question
*Please include where you are located, and a picture if you can! By submitting your question and/or a picture, you understand and agree that any picture and text you submit may be used by All About Worms without restriction.

1 Comment

  1. Jeremy sullivan

    Hello, I live in South Alabama. On my property, I have worms that look just like earth worms, but when the sun goes down they glow. I don’t think they are any type of larva, but are really glow worms. I just found one that was about 3 inches long. I’d be happy to send you pictures.

Leave a Comment (but to submit a question please use the "Submit a Question" link above; we can't respond to questions posted as a comment)

Menu / Search

All About Worms