1 Any of var flying insects that are attracted to lights at night, esp a moth or a June bug n 1; a moth of any kind. [OED2 candle-fly (at candle n.) “Obs. ‘a flie that houering about a candle burnes itself’ . . , a moth”; →1725] chiefly Sth, Midl Cf candle bat (at bat n1 2), candle miller n, electric light bug n, lamp bug n 1, 3, light bug n 2
1773 VA Gaz. (Williamsburg) (ed. Rind) 4 Mar 2/2, No rollers, flies, wasps, hornets, buzz about, / No candle bugs, or gnats, your eyes put out, / Nor dire moschettos, while December reigns, / Make, of your bed of rest, a bed of pains. 1802 in 2010 Jefferson Papers 37.596 VA, I omitted to place in my memorandum 2. wire-screens for the windows of the Setting room, intended to exclude the candle flies and bugs in the evening, which abound here in most uncommon quantities. 1819 Amer. Farmer 16 July 125 MD, I deposited in bottles, with earth, several of these larvæ, they shortly went into chrysalis, and came out a fly of the lepidopterous order, precisely like the candle-fly, in all respects. 1829 Amer. Turf Reg. 1.38 PA, In June and July imitations of the miller’s or candle flies are found best. 1860 NY Herald (NY) 23 Apr 4/3 LA, It is now pretty well ascertained that the cane bug is merely the June, or . . candle bug, with which everybody is acquainted. 1865 Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta GA) 31 May 2/2, Naught disturbed the universal calm . . save . . the buzz of the silly candle-fly, as it ventured too near the light, and lost its pinions. 1893 NY Entomol. Soc. Jrl. 3 FL [Black], In Florida I use a different language. There the colored race take an eager interest in our collecting. To them my moths are no longer millers, but generally can’le flies. 1904 Tucson Citizen (AZ) 22 Aug 5/5, Mr. Walker was at first of the opinion that the noise was made by candle bugs flying against the screen, as there was a light burning just inside the door. 1951 Abilene Reporter–News (TX) 18 Oct sec A 8/2, Abilene’s unseasonably warm weather is responsible for the swarms of bugs and little “candle flies” that invaded the city Wednesday night. 1959 Sanders Echoes 16 swAR, It seems that the crickets and candle bugs were better Methodists than a lot of the folks around our township; they would attend in great numbers every night. 1965–70 DARE (Qu. R4, A large winged insect that hatches in summer in great numbers around lakes or rivers, crowds around lights, lives only a day or so, and is good fish bait) Infs AR5, MO29, MS21, TN52, TX1, Candle fly; AR55, FL4, 35, PA66, Candle fly [Inf doubtful]; DE3, Moth flies or candle flies; AR41, Candle bug, candle miller; FL35, Candle bug [Inf doubtfull]; (Qu. R5, A big brown beetle that comes out in large numbers in spring and early summer, and flies with a buzzing sound) Infs LA14, 15, Candle bug [ˈkænḷ ˌbʌg]—brown; (Qu. R10, Very small flies that don’t sting, often seen hovering in large groups or bunches outdoors in summer) Inf MO9, Candle fly; (Qu. R12, . . Other kinds of flies) Inf NC10, Candle flies—moths; (Qu. R30, . . Kinds of beetles; not asked in early QRs) Inf NC27, Candle bug—flies around lights. 1970 Statesville Rec. & Landmark (NC) 4 Sept sec B 3/6, Q. I have never seen so many of these candle flies. . . (P. W., Elizabethtown) A. Your candle flies are the adults of the European corn borer. 1983 Laurel Leader–Call (MS) 15 June 4/3, I overheard some folks talking at a civic club the other day about the way things used to be in Laurel. . . “Kids today don’t even know what a candle fly is,” one of them said. And that’s true. 1989 Pederson LAGS Tech. Index 212 Gulf Region, (Moth) 284 [of 914] infs, Candle fly; 22 infs, Candle bug; 1 inf, Candle-fly-like thing. 2010 Times–News (Burlington NC) 9 Oct sec E 1/5, If you see small black beetles wandering on a pantry shelf or the presence of candle flies in the kitchen, then it is time to take action. 2012 DARE File—Internet neMS, We seem to have an abundance of candle flies and nary a martin to eat them.
2 = firefly n 1. Cf lamp bug n 2
1871 in 1910 OH Archeol. & Hist. Qrly. 19.227 OH, We put a stand for a candle in the bow of the canoe high enough to take sight under it with a shade between me and the candle, also to shade the fore part of the canoe, so we could put the gun far enough forward for the light to shine upon the far sight of the gun. . . There was one old buck fooled me a long time. He got to know the light of the candle from a candle fly. 1899 Bouvé Their Shadows 5 VA [Black], Do de can’le-bug what fly aroun’ in de summer evenin’ wanter be one uv de big, shinin’ stars in de sky? 1968 DARE (Qu. R1, . . The small insect that flies at night and flashes a light at its tail) Inf VA26, Lightning bug, candle fly. 1986 Pederson LAGS Concordance (Firefly) 5 infs, cnAB, ne, nwGA, nwMS, neTN, Candle fly; 1 inf, csTX, Candle bug.