Making Firefly Lanterns

by Killgrace

Firefly lanterns are traditional lanterns which hold fireflies or other glowing bugs as a source of light. Modern equivalents may use beads.

Firefly lanterns are traditional lanterns which hold fireflies or other glowing bugs as a source of light. The original ones did not even use glass, simply being woven wicker cages that kept the fireflies inside.

While this might be considered a little cruel today, and fireflies are endangered in some areas, modern equivalents can be made with paint or beads for children - ideal for halloween and other winter parties.

Traditional firefly lanterns were made using wicker, woven so that the flies could not escape but their glow could still be seen. Some cultures used glowworms instead of fireflies in the lanterns

Make your own with Paint

One easy way to make your own is with glow in the dark paint.

You will need:

  • A glass jar
  • Some string
  • A sheet of clear plastic or acetate
  • Glow in the dark paint.

(Some people just paint the inside of the jar rather than use acetate)

A video tutoral

Louise Fowler demonstrates how to do this on Youtube


  1. Take the sheet of plastic and roll it up so it can fit in the jar. Cut it to make sure you can put the top on the jar and seal it.
  2. Take the plastic out, lay it flat and flick daubs of paint across it. You want small speckles to look like fireflies. (Try not to get the paint on anything else!)
  3. Once it is dry, roll the plastic back up and put it into the jar. Let it unroll to fit.
  4. Pierce two holes in the lid and tie the string through to make a handle.
  5. Screw the lid on.


Stand it somewhere bright before you go out so it will glow brightly when you carry it.

Make your own with beads

You will need:

  • glow in the dark beads
  • a jar
  • String for a handle
  • some fine wire (not thread)


  1. Twist the wire into a circle, with individual strands pointing down.
  2. Tape the circle onto the lid of the jar. Check that when the lid is screwed on, the wire does not touch the jar bottom.
  3. Thread a single bead onto the end of each individual wire strand, and bend the wire to hold it.
  4. puncture two holes in the lid, thread the string through and tie it to make a handle.
  5. Screw the lid on.
  6. Done.

The wires will move if you used thin enough wire, making your fireflies dance! Don't use thread, or your fireflies might get tangled.


Using glowsticks

This is a method I have never used, but it certainly looks interesting!

Use in the series

In the Killgrace Series, Susan's guide in Faithless creates a firefly lantern from a jar when he discovers she can't see in the dark like him.

Killgrace and the Faithless

Killgrace and the Faithless

Why would a species abandon science and shun reason? Why is there such a schism in the culture they have just discovered? And why did Susan have to discover it by being arrested...

View on Amazon

Updated: 01/26/2015, Killgrace
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