An Underground Cave's Blueish Glow In New Zealand Is All Thanks To This Unexpected Inhabitant

They're called arachnocampa luminosa, an unromantic name, certainly, but to see photos of New Zealand's glow worm colonies nestled deep in a North Island cave is to witness one of Earth's most extraordinary sights. The photos look like fantastical paintings, otherworldly and magical. The limestone caves glow with a green-blue light from these ancient creatures in this new photo series.

Joseph Michael is an Auckland photographer best known for his 24-hour time-lapse landscape photography. His glow worm cave photo series, called "Luminosity", is part of an ongoing series of nature photos.

The glow worms are the larvae of a fungus gnat, similar to a mosquito.

Found in Australia and New Zealand, the worms species is over 30 million years old.

The worms use a silken thread web to catch their prey while in their larvae stage. This is the "arachno" part of their arachnocampa luminosa name.

The worms gather in groups by the hundreds on the dark, damp shelters of the caves.


The glowing lights draw other insects to the worms' silky webs where they become entangled and fall prey to the larvae.

Interestingly, the ability to create light, called bioluminescence, is so useful, particularly for marine life, that it's evolved at least 40 times.

The light of the glow worms is dependent on total darkness. They aren't visible to the human eye if there is any light coming into the cave.

Visitors to the cave typically come in from a night time hike. They compare the glow worms along the roof of the cave to seeing the stars in the sky on a clear night.

When the worms go dark, usually the result of seeing light or smoke, they'll turn their bioluminescence off for 15 minutes at a time.

The glow worms have a fleeting larval lifespan, living just long enough to mate and lay eggs. After about 6-12, the larvae pupate into plain-looking mosquito-like flies.


At the very end of their larval stage, the pupae hang on a short thread from the roof of the cave, the females getting brighter and the males dimmer with time.

The female glow worms lay about 130 eggs each. Although the females don't survive to see it, the eggs hatch about 3 weeks later.

The native Māori people of New Zealand call arachnocampa luminosa "titiwai", a name that means "projected over water."

The glow worms have very few natural predators. Their biggest threat to sustainability is human destruction and interference of their habitat.

Via: Business Insider

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