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Remembered Today:

Are there glow worms in the Somme countryside?

Michael Thomson

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Hello. This might seem like an odd question but can anyone please tell me if glow worms or any similar luminescent insects are present on the Somme battlefields at this time of year? 


My wife and I were visiting the area in front of Mametz Wood ('Death Valley') last week around sunset (so that made it approximately 21h30-21h45) and I decided to park the car on the narrow road that runs infront of the Welsh Dragon monument but around 250m to the left of the monument at the point where the road descends to the valley floor and meets the dirt road that runs infront of the fields opposite the Wood, between the Hammethead and Strip Trench.


I got out and took a walk towards the Mametz wood treeline along the edge of two farm fields but my wife stayed in the car. We were there for about 15 minutes and during that time my wife said she saw a number of small flickering lights in the trees and bushes on the right side of the track, ie not in Mametz Wood which lay across the fields but in the trees and bushes up against the steep embankment that the Welsh Dragon monument is built on. 


There is only an embankment behind the trees so it can not have been distant lights from traffic or houses and there were no other people around so my only explanation is that it might be glow worms or a similar type of insect? 


She said the lights were only there for a few minutes but there were a lot of them-perhaps 200- and then disappeared and when i returned to the car we drove right past the spot she saw the lights and nothing was visible. 


She said it made her feel quite uncomfortable but I am sure that it was probably glow worms or some similar luminescent insect. 


Has anyone else seen similar? 





Edited by Michael Thomson
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The only time I have seen glowing insects were in Greece many years ago, (in total darkness) and in a forest in Uganda at dusk in 2012. 

On each occasion, the glowing was fairly dim, transient and only visible within bout 10-20 feet max.

How far away did your wife's lights appear to be?

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Hi DByS, yeah, both my wife and I only recall seeing fireflies or glow worms many years ago as children in Johannesburg, South Africa but I remember them emitting a tiny dim light that was transient as you mentioned. 


She said that the lights she saw in the treeline were like flickering candles, about 50 metres away. We drove past the spot that she said she saw the lights coming from and nothing was visible up close but she said that the flickering lights were only there for a few minutes.

Edited by Michael Thomson
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That was my thought too...I believe dusk is when fireflies and glow worms are most active so it was the right time of day but the distance was quite far. Hmmm.

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I've only seen glow worms once in my life in the late 1970's. It was in the Italian Dolomites near Monte Civetta. It was dark; we were lost but reasonably certain the path we were on would go somewhere. Fortunately it did!

Magical, Memorable, experience.

They seemed to hover around us. I don't think they would be seen from a distance.



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Glow worms, (not worms actually but a species of beetle), Lampyris noctiluca are certainly found on the Somme. There distribution reaches as far North as lowland Scotland and the place your wife saw them perfectly matches their preferred habitat. I don’t see any issues with the distance you viewed them, particularly if the background was dark. Classed as a common species in Northern France however, as with all insects their abundance will increase in areas of preferred habitat. The following link shows their distribution in the UK



Sorry but I can’t find similar map for France.



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I have certainly seen “glow worms” in southern Kent. So no reason why they shouldn’t be seen on the Somme. But I must admit that the  most impressive I have ever seen were in the USA in Connecticut just north of New York City deep in the countryside where there was little or no artificial lighg. These could be seen many yards away. I suspect it depends whether you are in a “dark sky” area. Certainly Mametz Woods would be regarded as such as they are a long way from any artificial light source.  

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Thanks petwes, Doug504 and keithfazzani, I think it most likely was fireflies or glow worms.


Definitely no light pollution out in front of Mametz Wood so one would have the best chance of seeing them and it was just after sunset when they are most active. 


Appreciate the help!

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  • 1 month later...

Just come across this post.


This, from Richard van Emden's Tommy's Ark:


Pte Hugh Quigley, 12th Royal Scots, 1916*

I have taken a new interest in beetles, especially when wakened at midnight by an inquisitive gentleman exploring my chest. They crawl up and down the walls of the dugout, strange jet-black monsters, shaped to inspire terror in a child's soul. Caterpillars are very constant with their attentions, dear little playfellows escorted by earwigs and huge spiders. Ladybirds preen themselves on your knees and go to sleep in boots; ants delight to scamper up one leg and down the other, get lost sometimes and emerge at your neck in a great sense of bewilderment. Greenflies and bluebottles utter dulcet melody all day long, strange buzzers hover on the face and tickle the ears and nostrils. There is a constant interchange of courtesies between grasshoppers on the banks, and crickets rattle lugubriously by the roadside at night ….

There is something wonderfully picturesque in the life. Two nights ago, while heaving up earth, I saw what resembled a piece of phosphorous lying at my feet. I stooped down and picked it up. When it began to squirm and wriggle over my hand I knew it was a glow-worm, and digging took on interest. Henceforth my concern was to uncover glow-worms not to pile up a parapet.

Apart from their beauty, association makes them precious. I remembered Shelley's lines on the skylark.

         'Like a glow-worm golden in a dell of dew.' 

The antiquarian imagination raised that humble creature lying quiescent on the ground into the scope of fine imagery and broad-winged thought, touching it to the angel and posting it above the sordid. For a moment I forgot I was in the war, and not in the grasp of romance centred in narrative, alive in fiction.


 * 12th Royal Scots were on the Somme in 1916.



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Interesting to revisit this subject.

It was covered on this morning's '"Today" Programme on BBC Radio 4, sometime around 0825.

The interviewee suggested they can be found almost anywhere in southern Britain and this time of year is the best time.


The relevant bit begins at 1:24:33:


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  • 2 weeks later...

Have seen then in Wales when camping a great sight!


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glow worms, or ?????


OK, I don't believe in ghosts, really, but I can understand that it's creepy, especially at a place as Mametz wood.

I saw glow worms only at one place, a few nights in a row, in Elsenborn camp.

tries to photograph them, but that did not work out…



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