Fireflies are on the wing

They emerge each year around the summer solstice. Golden lights in the night that float and glow as June melts into July.

They are fireflies, or as we like to call them in Ohio, "lightnin’ bugs."

Recently I spoke with Three Creeks Metro Parks Naturalist Jill Snyder, who presents programs about fireflies, about these wondrous insects.

Rick Palsgrove: Why do you like fireflies?

Jill Snyder: "I have always enjoyed fireflies. I think it started from being a kid and running around catching fireflies at night. When I see fireflies it evokes great memories from childhood – a feeling of warm summer nights and not a care in the world. They are just a great sign of summer!"

RP: Do you know the origin of the term lightning bugs? Is this term mostly used in Ohio?

JS: "It is listed as another common name for fireflies. I would assume it has something to do with the streaks of light looking like lightning flashes in the night sky. I grew up on the Ohio/Indiana border and we used both terms."

RP: What can people do to attract fireflies to their yards?

JS: "Keep lots of vegetation in the yard and reduce the amount of outdoor lighting. Outdoor lighting interferes with fireflies’ ability to attract one another, so they may leave your yard to find a darker place to attract a mate. Vegetation, like bushes or low lying tree branches, gives them somewhere to spend their days. Reduce the amount of pesticides and lawn chemicals. These can kill adults and larvae. Fireflies also seem to prefer moist habitats, so perhaps a pond or wet area will help bring them to the yard."

RP: What are the things people should avoid doing in their yards so as not to kill or harm fireflies?

JS: "Mostly avoid pesticides."

RP: How long are fireflies out in the evening and what is the best time to see them?

JS: "It depends on the species of firefly how long each night and at what time. I have found just after dusk to be a pretty productive time to search for fireflies. You can find them emerging from their daytime hiding places. They also base their lighting on the amount of ambient light, so on a clear night with a full moon, they may not be very active."

RP: Where was the most spectacular viewing of fireflies that you’ve ever seen?

JS: "One of my favorite places to see fireflies is along the ancient trail at Battelle-Darby Creek Metro Park. There is a stretch of trail through the woods near the creek where the lights are just amazing. Someone once told me they thought it was like being inside a Christmas tree – and I think they’re right!"

RP: How long do fireflies live?

JS: "Again, it depends on the species. They usually lay eggs in the summer, hatch in fall, and over winter as larvae. In spring, the larvae emerge and pupate, going through several instars (between molts) before emerging as an adult. They are in the pupal stage for one to three weeks. Adults live a varying amount of time based on the species. I would say the entire life cycle takes one to two years. But I’m not certain on that."

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