Facts you didn’t know about Fireflies and where to see them

By Stef Zisovska
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Facts you didn’t know about Fireflies and where to see them

Stef Zisovska
 
 
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We already know that there are many weird and freakish species all around the world, but not all of them are ugly or scary. As a matter of fact, some are so amazing that some folks will travel for miles just to see them. When we talk about insects, the unique among them is for sure the firefly or the lightning bug.

It belongs to the beetle order Coleoptera, and it produces light from its lower abdomen while mating. How cool is that? They produce yellow, green or pale red light with wavelengths from 510 to 670 nanometers. Both males and females produce light to attract a mate.

How do they produce light

Photinus Carolinus fireflies in Pennsylvania – Author: Radim Schreiber – CC BY-SA 3.0
Photinus Carolinus fireflies in Pennsylvania – Author: Radim Schreiber – CC BY-SA 3.0

Fireflies produce light by a chemical reaction known as bioluminescence. It involves an enzyme called Luciferase that when it gets in touch with oxygen, magnesium ions, and ATP it produces light.

Fireflies are able to ‘light up’ from the moment they are larvae, although during that period it is more of a warning sign for predators. When they mature, the lights serve to attract a partner for reproductive purposes. The quality of the light determines the quality of the firefly as a mate.

Where to see them in the US?

1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Tennessee

Fireflies in Georgia, U.S. – Author: Jud McCranie – CC BY-SA 4.0
Fireflies in Georgia, U.S. – Author: Jud McCranie – CC BY-SA 4.0

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most famous place in the States for watching synchronous fireflies. This event happens during June, so if you want to be there you need to participate in the lottery that the park runs and get all the necessary information in advance.

2. Congaree National Park – South Carolina

Only 30 minutes from the state capital, the Congaree National Park is another perfect spot for firefly watching. You don’t have to make a reservation, and there is no fee. The best time to see them is mid-June between 8 and 10 p.m. The viewing area is easy to reach from the Harry Hampton Visitor Center on an elevated boardwalk. The park welcomes hundreds of visitors each year.

3. Allegheny National Forest – Pennsylvania

Fireflies in the woods – Author: Quit007 – CC BY-SA 3.0
Fireflies in the woods – Author: Quit007 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Each year in Pennsylvania there is the Firefly Festival that celebrates this amazing spectacle. It’s a free festival and it happens on the fourth Saturday of June, starting at noon and ending at midnight. You can visit the festival’s other activities as well, including live music, food, crafts, exhibitions, arts, and of course, firefly souvenirs. If you are interested in camping in the area, there are few basic campgrounds but you need to ask for permission to use them.

Fireflies are one more proof that our planet is an incredible place where all kinds of strange and interesting creatures live. If you ever see them, you will have the feeling that you’re entering a magical world of fairies. Actually, they are just simple beetles with shiny bellies. Enjoy the view!

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