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Fire Fly Tours at Bios on the Hill

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-05-27

Bios on the Hill is a nature resort with a difference. Bios means Life in Greek and it is here in abundance: plants, animals and insects. The park is reached by a long winding drive and after registration you go down some stairs and you are in a beautiful, orchid strewn park. It has immaculate lawns, a tea house and some restful, shaded areas to wait in.

You need to register before going on the firefly tour and also to get there before before 7 p.m.

The phone number is (098) 965-340 and fax is (098) 965-1935. The tours are from May 13 to June 25 every Saturday and Sunday afternoon after sunset. Tours cost 1500 for adults and 800 for children under 12.

A park attendant gives a lecture on what the park has to offer and then, as it gets dark, he ushers us across the lawn to the boats. These are shallow draft, raft-like craft with canvas canopies and rows of benches from which to view the fireflies.

Before we get in the boats two attendants rig up a large white screen and set two powerful halogen lamps in front of it. They are to attract insects for us to look at after the boat trip has finished. This lasts 25 minutes and there is a detailed commentary about the type and number of orchids growing on the boles of trees and the life of mangroves, many of which are planted in the shallows we are gliding past.

The engine of this boat has a restful purr and our host shines his flashlight on the more interesting specimens that line the banks of the water. We are in a lake created by a dam, surrounded by thick forest, teeming with animal life. We disturb some birds on an overhead branch and they swoop away hooting.

When we see our first firefly there are delighted cries of "segoy" and then we come on groups of them flitting around in the shadows, lazily tracing arcs from branch to branch or just resting on leaves. Some hiding under foliage emit a faint translucent glow.

There are unfortunately not too many of them this night, which is rather damp. The park employees assure us that if you take the tour on a good night, the myriad golden dancing insects are a sight to behold. There are thousands of swirling dots of fire, lighting up the forest like Christmas trees, creating the illusion of golden depths in the water and filling the air with delightful after-traces of their flight.

There are over 2000 kinds of fireflies in the world. Forty five of these live in Japan, of which there are 22 types in Okinawa. The main island has seven kinds and two of these live in Bios on the Hill.

The firefly is becoming less common around the world because of environmental pollution, but at Bios on the Hill, if you pick the right night, it can be seen in abundance. It lives only two weeks, just long enough to reproduce. Females are bigger than males and both sexes have black heads and stomachs and white legs.

One type of male found in the park is normally 5.5mm to 8.5mm long. It has a black head and tentacles. Its body is yellow from the neck down. The female is yellow, 16mm long. This type don't emit light. Perhaps they are massing in greater numbers tonight, than their more fiery cousins.

These appear in late April to November, but are most seen in mid May. While the males fly they continuously emit light. Females shine brighter at slower intervals when they don't fly. After sunset the males' light is weak but continuous. Females shine strongly in regular bursts of light to tempt males. After

8 p.m. males' lights go out but they carry on flying.

At the end of the water tour we are taken on some winding paths where some of the luminescent creatures are lurking in the leaves. There are not many of them but we are at least able to see clearly, with the help of special red flashlights, the larval stage of the firefly, before it has sprouted wings and is still crawling around in the dirt.

As a finale, firefly fanciers can visit the Garden Center, the biggest in Okinawa, where they can buy reasonably priced high quality orchids. The orchids grown in this greenhouse can just be enjoyed or ordered by phone or fax: Tel (098) 965-7300 Fax (098) 965-6435.

Directions: Coming from Kadena on Rte 329, pass Lawson and take a left after the Shell gas station onto Rte 6. Take a left after passing the Sanwa shutter factory and a steep road uphill will take you to the Bios entrance gate on your left. Go down the long winding drive until you reach the car park and registration hut.

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