A Special Glow Lighting up the Mountain

Sonya Underdahl
Sonya Underdahl

Tamborine Mountain is famous for many things including its glow worms.

They’re small fly larvae that give off a mesmerising luminescent glow and their presence on the mountain attracts tourists from far and wide.

Local parks guide, Sonya Underdahl, said they are a threatened species and only found in Australia and New Zealand. 

The two species found here are endemic to the mountain. 

They prefer dark, wet environments like caves, but because we don’t have any caves they live in the rainforest near waterfalls.

Sonya said they are photosensitive. Any white or blue light shining on them impacts them, causing dispersal breeding interruption, death and physiological damage.

“These creatures are different from most bioluminescent species because their light is mechanical, like an old bicycle light dynamo,” she explained. 

“In order to create the light, they need to contract and relax their muscles making the beautiful glow from an organ near their tail.”

She said the biggest threat to glow worms are visitors using white or blue light. 

“Although not legislated, a move by tourism operators has seen 99% of all operators switch to red light use,” Sonya said.

“The nocturnal animals and glow worms aren’t impacted by low lumen red LEDs allowing visitors to view them whilst ensuring they minimise damage to these amazing creatures.”

This simple switch she said has led to glow worm numbers on the mountain rise as well as an increase in their distribution.

“The final white torch went out in October last year with a distinct positive impact on the dispersal within three months,” Sonya said.

“Residents can play their part by adjusting lighting to prevent light pollution and use directional lighting.”

She also said people swimming with suncream on and urinating in the creeks pollutes the water impacting glow worms which have no skin, just a fine membrane making them susceptible to absorbing chemicals.

“At the moment our river and waterfalls are still flushing out these water sources, but as conditions get drier it is essential that we allow these water bodies to remain pristine,” she stressed.

“Residents on Tamborine Mountain are the custodians of the area and play a huge role in protecting our national parks and World Heritage areas. 

“The glow worms, which went into huge decline pre-COVID have once again increased and it’s up to us to protect them.”

For those not wanting to venture into the national parks at night The Glow Worm Caves at Cedar Creek Estate offer the only captive colony in the world and can be easily viewed during the daytime.