By Nancy Mac
Standing outside in the dark, close your eyes. Smell the fresh air, feel the warm summer night. Listen to the trees whisper. Then, when you’ve let go of your city self, your adult self, and when you have become part of the night’s magic, open your gentled eyes and witness anew the enchantment of the firefly dance.
But wait. What happens when you look for them and they’re gone? Where are they? Where have all the fireflies gone?
Well, a lot of their absence belongs to us and it’s up to us to fix it. We caused it. We need to fix it.
What have we done? In our quest for magazine-perfect curb appeal, we’ve used weed and bug chemicals on our yards, we’ve sprayed for mosquitoes, we regularly use leaf blowers to keep everything looking neat and tidy, and we use bright LED white lights on our porches. We also buy our houses in areas where all the trees have been clear-cut to make way for pristine housing developments.
As lovely as our homes might appear, the lack of Lighting Bugs, indicates the surrounding environment isn’t a healthy one. That’s according to Ben Pfeiffer who has a degree in Biology from Texas State and is a Texas-certified Master Naturalist. He’s also a bee-keeper and firefly researcher.
Fireflies live only a short time as the delicate flying beetles we remember from our childhood. The glowing night creatures are actually elderly adults and they only have a few weeks left to live. Before we see them, they live 1 to 2 years growing as larvae in soil, mud, and leaf litter.
The glow we see from fireflies is the mating light of the males and females. Once a female has mated, she looks for a garden like yours because it has good hiding places for her eggs.
Fortunately, Ben gives us directions on his website on how to make your garden or yard more hospitable. Did you know Fireflies eat annoying garden pests like snails, slugs, and some worms? In fact, with very little effort, you can have your yard certified as a Wild Life Habitat.
Does your town or subdivision spray for mosquitoes? If they spray at twilight, they’ll kill your fireflies. If they can spray before twilight, say around 4pm, before the lightening bugs are out, it will help save them. Beetles are tougher than mosquitoes and if they spray before dusk, the miserable bloodsuckers will still die but the Lightening Bugs won’t. It’s a win-win for everyone except the mosquitoes.
Did you know, that sometimes, Lightening Bugs dance synchronized in unity? It’s rare, only two weeks or so each year and in only 3 places in the world. (Southeast Asia, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Congaree wildlife area in South Carolina). Scientists have hypothesized why they do it but no one really knows why. It’s one of nature’s magical, mystifying mysteries.
One thing scientists do know about Fireflies is a healthy Firefly population means a healthy environment for you.