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Fireflies or lightning bugs? Either way, they’re in danger.

People around the world have fond memories of summer nights aglow with fireflies, each insect flickering like a tiny star. These are the kind of magic moments in nature that everyone should have the opportunity to experience.

But recently, there have been fewer fireflies out, and people are starting to notice

Fireflies – also known as lightning bugs – live in all fifty states. But you probably haven't seen many west of the Rocky Mountains – that's because those species' lights are nearly undetectable to the human eye. In the eastern United States, however, fireflies have become almost synonymous with humid summer nights.

A recent report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature that studied 132 species of fireflies in the United States and Canada stated that 14% of the species studied were in danger of extinction. Additionally, more than half of the species present (53%) could not even be evaluated against the assessment criteria because of a lack of data, highlighting the need for further research and study.

Protecting our fireflies is important. The presence of fireflies in an ecosystem can indicate overall health.

But fireflies are not just about light; they also act as crucial pollinators for various plants and flowers. As they flutter from one blossom to another, they aid in the reproduction of plants, contributing to a diverse and vibrant environment.

Fireflies also act as natural pest controllers, preying on insects like mosquitoes, gnats, and other small pests. By keeping these nuisances in check, they play a significant role in maintaining ecological balance.

Light pollution poses a growing threat to fireflies by disrupting their mating behavior, causing habitat fragmentation, altering their life cycle, luring them towards artificial lights, and increasing their vulnerability to predation. The excessive artificial light interferes with fireflies' bioluminescent signals crucial for mating communication, resulting in reduced mating success and declining populations.

Another significant contributor to the decline in firefly numbers is the increased use of pesticides. While designed to target pests, pesticides can inadvertently harm non-target organisms, including fireflies. Fireflies have intricate life cycles encompassing eggs, larvae (glowworms), pupae, and adults. These chemicals can directly impact firefly larvae residing in the soil, which are sensitive to environmental toxins.

Fireflies are most dependent on forests because these beetles spend 95% of the time as larvae on the forest floor in leaf litter and rotting logs where moisture is critical. Destruction or fragmentation of forests, grasslands, and wetland habitats leads to dwindling firefly populations due to the lack of suitable breeding and feeding grounds. And climate change-induced droughts disturb the delicate balance of firefly ecosystems, resulting in lower populations, diminished reproductive success, and potential long-term declines in firefly numbers.

We cannot attribute the decline in firefly populations to any one factor, and the solution must be multifaceted. The good news is that we can all play a part in helping to conserve firefly populations by:

These conservation efforts benefit not only endangered firefly species but a whole host of other creatures, as our ecosystems are all connected.

Together we can each do our part and keep these enchanting insects from extinction.

More soon,


Posted on August 18, 2023.