To catch small flying insects, the glow-worm sets up a snare of sticky silk threads. Flying insects see the glow-worm’s light in the dark and fly towards it, because it resembles moonlight shining through the trees. Instead of finding freedom, they become trapped on the sticky threads. Their struggles alert the glow-worm, which pulls in the thread with its mouth. The prey is then killed and eaten.
Glow-worm lines vary greatly in number and length, depending on the size of the larva and where it is living. Forest-dwelling glow-worms hang lines that are only 1–2 centimetres long, because they could get tangled in a breeze. In the still air of caves, lines can reach up to half a metre.
Each line is made of silk with droplets of sticky mucus – like beads on a string. The larva spends much of its time making and repairing the lines. Because of the flexible nature of its tube, the larva can push its head out to grab a line, ingesting it for re-use later.
A worm can make 15–25 lines a night, and will spend about 15 minutes producing each one. The first droplet of mucus is the biggest, then a short length of silk is added, followed by another droplet, then another length of silk. A large glow-worm that is nearly mature may have as many as 70 lines.
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