About five minutes after leaving the top of Cowles Mountain on Saturday, May 9, six flashlight-toting hikers encountered something they had never seen before.
It was approximately 8:30 p.m. on a dark night, with the full moon not due to rise for another seven minutes or so. The hikers were on a short path just below the summit that connects the Cowles Mountain Trail with the so-called “Jeep Road.”
A tiny point of bright green light on the ground at the side of the trail pierced the darkness. Upon close examination, the source of the light was determined to be a small salmon-colored insect, about half an inch in length. At the rear of its body, on the right side, were what appeared to be two tiny segments of light, glowing a bright lime-green.
The insect was later identified as being a female Microphotus angustus, or “pink glowworm beetle.” Not really a worm, the pink glowworm is more accurately described as a beetle larva. The female never matures beyond the larval stage. She waits motionless on the ground, advertising herself with constantly glowing light, hoping to attract a flying male.
Author’s note: Cowles is properly pronounced “coals,” although the majority of San Diegans mispronounce it as if it rhymes with “towels.”