Most of us have fond memories growing up of warm summer nights spent chasing fireflies in large, open fields, then showing off our collection of the fascinating bugs. But have you noticed in the last few years that the firefly population (also known as lightning bugs) has decreased?
Research has shown the population of fireflies has been decreasing, and no, it is not because of us catching them all on those warm summer nights as children. Researchers believe it is due to light pollution and land development. Firefly larvae thrive in areas with rotting wood and they stay relatively close to the area that they are born. Their environment of choice is warm, humid, and near bodies of water, including ponds, streams, and rivers. With many large fields being developed, fireflies have less natural habitat to grow and thrive on.
The familiar flashing produced by fireflies, in shades of yellow, green, and orange, is actually very important to their existence. Flash patterns, which are unique to each firefly, are a means of communication. Flashes can be synchronized across thousands of insects, or individualized by males to attract females to mate. They can also be used to ward off predators and defend their territory. Researchers believe that the growing amount of light pollution may interfere with fireflies’ ability to communicate with each other.
To help prevent the disappearance of fireflies, reduce exterior light pollution by turning off unnecessary exterior lights at night. Adding a water feature to your landscape, using natural fertilizers, and planting native trees are all ways to provide a more natural habitat for fireflies. Hopefully, we’ll be back to those warm summer nights catching fireflies before long!
Photo thanks to Firefly.org