Glowworms Light the Sky of a New Zealand Cave with a Sea of Stars

by Carolyn Sotka


These 30 million year old cave formations are a majestic backdrop to the bioluminescence of the glowworms. Photo by Joseph Michael.

Arachnocampa luminosa is a species of glowworm endemic to New Zealand and a fungus gnat  that hangs down from the ceiling of caves with a silken thread. Both larvae and pupae are luminescent and although males stop glowing after a few days; female’s glow increases, likely to attract a mate and prey. Its Māori name is titiwai, meaning “projected over water”.


The Waitomo Caves in the North Island and the Te Ana-au Caves in the South Island are the best known habitats, both caves having become popular and highly frequented tourist attractions. Photo by Joseph Michael

Arachnocampa luminosa is found in both the North and South Islands and generally widespread, although populations are isolated due to the lack of suitable habitat in areas where farming is intense and forests were cut down.


These long exposure photographs were taken with a Nikon D810. To see more of Joseph Michael’s work check out his gallery.

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