It’s a star… it’s magic… it’s glowworms! The roof of this New Zealand cave appears to be a starry night sky, but really it’s the creatures that live inside that give off the twinkling appeal of stars.
The Auckland, New Zealand-based New-media artist Joseph Michael captured these stunning photos using long-exposure photography of glowworms within the walls of a 30-million-year-old limestone cave located on North Island.
Michael explains his photos taken in the New Zealand cave via Facebook, “The exposures varied on the cave and how close I could get. 5 mins for the close ups. 30 mins or 1hr for some of the wider ones.” He had to experiment a bit to get just the right shots in regards to, “Getting the ISO / f stop mix right. The blue light in some of the pics is a soft LED which is powered from my car battery / inverter combo.”
These glowworms are known as Arachnocampa luminosa, which is a type of fungus gnat prevalent in New Zealand. The larva hangs down in traps made of silk in order to capture food, the hungrier they are the brighter they glow, as the brightness is what attracts prey directly into their traps. These silk strands can measure up to 40 cm (15.75 in), hence how spectacular they appear in these photos.
In 1924, the species responsible for the cave’s glow was renamed from “Bolitiphila” to Arachnocampa, which translates to “spider-worm.” This name represents the sticky silk thread they use to capture prey. Once the larvae fully develop they transform into an adult fly, but spend most of their life as larva.
The glowing larva nests spun out of silk are only found in locations shielded from wind so that they don’t become tangled, such as in caves, overhangs, or deep in the rainforest.