Glowworms in New Zealand cave
These lights are lures produced by gnat larvae, mimicking stars to trap unsuspecting insects. (Photo: Joseph Michael)

Say hello to Arachnocampa luminosa, a bioluminescent fungus gnat species endemic to the craggy limestone cave systems of New Zealand.

Armed with his trusty Nikon D810, photographer Joseph Michael ventured into several of the North Island's 30-million-year-old caves to capture some long-exposure shots of these glowing critters and their dewy, silky snares.

Michael's resulting images, which he titled "Luminosity," are a great visual demonstration of just how bright these little larvae can get despite their size.

Glowworms in New Zealand cave
(Photo: Joseph Michael)

In their larval form, the young gnats cling to cave walls and dangle strands of silk. This silk is coated with beads of sticky mucus, which helps magnify their bioluminescence.

As MNN's Jaymi Heimbuch writes, that array of glowing dots causes some insects to think they're looking at the night sky, not cave walls:

"Moths and other insects use the stars and moon to navigate. But when they try to orient their flight to the 'stars' in the cave, they easily become disoriented and fly into the traps. ... Amazingly, these colonies of worms seem to dim and brighten based on a 24-hour cycle, and seem to glow in sync as a group."

To see these ethereal glowworms at work, check out the time-lapse video below, filmed by photographer Jordan Poste at several caves on the North Island:

If you're interested in seeing these worms for yourself, consider taking a spelunking or boating trip through the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Because this species is only found in New Zealand, you'll never experience anything quite like it anywhere else!

In the meantime, continue below for more photos from "Luminosity." And be sure to check out Michael's website for the rest of his brilliant portfolio!

Glowworms in New Zealand cave
(Photo: Joseph Michael)
Glowworms in New Zealand cave
(Photo: Joseph Michael)
Glowworms in New Zealand cave
(Photo: Joseph Michael)
Glowworms in New Zealand cave
(Photo: Joseph Michael)

Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in June 2015.