The Wonder of our World

If you were going on an extravagant vacation, where might you go? There’s always the popular tourist destinations: the pyramids, the great wall, the Eiffel Tower. You could go somewhere a bit more off the beaten path: a Tree Circus, a house in the middle of a river, maybe even a real-life Hobbit house right out of the Shire.

But instead of any of those things, how would you feel about spending a vacation in New Zealand surrounded by worms?


Glowworm is an umbrella term applied to all insects that produce light through bioluminescence. Fireflies fit into this family, as do some beetles, and then there’s the Arachnocampa Luminosa, otherwise known as the New Zealand glowworm.


Glowworm larva unilluminated

As the name implies, the New Zealand glowworm is native to the little string of islands off the Australian coast. Unlike other bioluminescent bugs which emit a yellow-green light, these critters produce a blue-green color.

The worm isn’t a worm so much as the larval stage of a gnat, and both the larva and the full grown gnat are luminescent. While some glowworms (such as fireflies) produce light to attract a mate, the New Zealand glowworm seems to light up in order to attract prey like midges. The bugs are even smaller than the gnats, and they fly towards the light emitting from their bodies and end up trapped in the glowworm’s webs.


Single glowworm

Waitomo Glowworm Caves

The Luminosa are highly concentrated in the Waitomo Caves system.

Since their discovery in the 1880s, the caves have been an important part of New Zealand recreation. Locals and tourist have been known to come to the caves and enjoy the sights.

The caves serve as a kind of natural park. Guided tours, boat rides, and even black water rafting are available for travelers. All the while, visitors are treated to the sight of thousands of the glowworms illuminated the cave walls a ceiling.

Glowworm Glowworm