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When Fireflies Thrive

February 18, 2015       How It Works
When Fireflies Disappear 
The Winking Lights Thrive in Darkness
and in Wet Tall Grasses and Tree Clumps

A firefly wooing female companions with synchronized light flashes.

You might be of that age if you still remember collecting fireflies in a jar as a kid.  Nowadays you don't really see them anymore, even dragonflies--which used to travel in droves into local gardens have almost disappeared.  The only places right now where you can find these magnificent creatures is at unspoiled and underdeveloped rural areas with little or no electrical grid to provide lighting like in Iwahig Penal Colony in Puerto Princesa, Palawan where the light bugs are a major tourist attraction.  Otherwise, in urban Metro Manila and in other developed places, all we have are mosquitoes and roaches.

Why are fireflies disappearing and is this a foreboding of any environmental disaster?

Fields of Grass No More

Overdeveloped urban sprawls and light pollution is the primary suspect behind the dwindling firefly populations the world over.  As urbanization and gentrification take away dark stretches of grassy fields and forests, fireflies are nowhere to be found anymore.

What fireflies look like in the daytime...harmless nighttime lightbringers.
As adult insects they only live for a few weeks.
..their larvae feed
on other insects

Increased use of pesticides to get rid of mosquitoes and roaches may also have harmed local firefly populations including their natural prey--other insects' larvae and even snails, slugs, and worms.  While some insects are hardy, fireflies are very delicate creatures--their larvae are believed to be carnivorous, living off smaller insects, snails and slugs, and the lifespan of an adult firefly is only a few weeks long.

Too Much Light At Night

Light pollution might be interfering with fireflies mating.  Both male and female fireflies use their flashing lights to communicate. Some species synchronize their flashes, sometimes across large groups of thousands of insects. All species communicate with each other at night with their blinking lights: from wooing females, defending their territory, and warning about nearby predators.  Where fireflies once had uninterrupted forests and fields to live and mate.  Less foliage to live in and the increase in lighting at night may be wiping out where these gentle creatures find their natural homes.

Our Nocturnal Friends

Fireflies mostly come out at night to mate, crawling to the tops of blades of grass and fly into tree branches to signal for females. Long grass conceals the fireflies better, and over-mowing your lawn may disturb your firefly population.  The creatures love the rainy season, and humid environments.

A kid holding a jar filled with fireflies, one of the most rewarding
childhood pastimes ever.

Fireflies don't bite and they don't carry disease.  Around 2,000 known species of firefly exist with new ones constantly being discovering.  It's a shame that one of most beloved of benevolent insects in the world is slowly losing out to the modernization of the human race's living spaces..


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