A rare, truly beautiful and otherworldly natural treasure resides beneath the surface of New Zealand’s North Island. In The Waitomo Glowworm Caves, there exists a sight straight out of a fantasy book. A colony of glowworms have created a spectacle that looks like the stars on the cave’s ceiling.
The glowworm species, Arachnocampa luminosa, is a kind of fungus gnat endemic to New Zealand. When they are in their larval stage, they are luminescent; giving them a beautiful and ghostly glow. When their larval stage ends, they become pupae and hang down from the roof of the cave on a single silken thread. This stage lasts for only a few weeks and results in varying glow intensities.
From their new homes and nests, they will lay out “snares” make of silk and covered in mucus. The glow of their bodies attracts prey such as moths and other insects which become ensnared and eaten by the glowworm larvae. The resulting display is a unique sight unlike any other, and Shaun Jeffers spent a year capturing it.