Filmmaker Sriram Murali recently captured magic in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve in India as myriads of fireflies lit up the forests and grasslands. Murali, who volunteers for the International Dark Sky Association, uses film and photography to create awareness around light pollution and the importance of darkness in the environment.

In the five-minute clip, Murali describes the firefly as “a tiny insect that steals the show at night”, which is exactly what is demonstrated in the footage. Billions of fireflies sparkle against the blackness of their surrounding jungle, an incredibly surreal sight to behold. During the day, however, they are far less extravagant and are easily overlooked as unassuming, little brown beetles.

Fireflies, glowworms, lightning bugs, or whatever name you choose for these soft-bodied beetles, rely heavily on darkness. The characteristic glow of the bugs comes from a chemical process called bioluminescence, which normally takes place in the beetle’s lower abdomen. Why go to all the trouble of making your butt glow? For sex, of course. The vibrant illumination is primarily believed to be a form of communication exhibited during courtship rituals. The language of love between a mating pair can be executed through a unique sequence in the form of constant glows, flashing glows, or by the release of pheromones. Bioluminescence is also commonly used to attract prey and deter predators.

There are over 2,000 described species of firefly, but only a handful exhibit synchronous bioluminescence. It's unclear which species of firefly star in Murali's footage and photos, but they are believed to belong to the Abscondita genus (and may even represent a species not yet known to science). “Detailed research and DNA sequencing are required to properly identify the species,” the filmmakers explained. “They have a brownish color with black stripes, round eyes with intricate patterns, and are less than a centimeter long."

In order for fireflies to shine effectively there needs to be darkness. With an increasing amount of light pollution from artificial sources such as electric bulbs and fireworks, the natural flow of wildlife is disrupted and creatures, like the firefly, lose the benefits of nightfall. So, next time you think about leaving your porch light on think of the glowworms.