The Disappearing Fireflies

July 9, 2018

© Richie Chan | Dreamstime.com

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One thing about the warmer evenings of summer, you could always count on seeing the flash of fireflies, or lightning bugs. But if that flicker has seemed to fade like the memories of your childhood, you're right. Research shows there aren't as many of them as there used to be.

Most species of fireflies thrive as larvae in rotting wood and decaying leaves in forests near ponds and streams. As they grow, they generally stay where they were born. One problem is that here in America and elsewhere throughout the world, open fields and forests are being paved over, and waterways are seeing more development. As their habitat disappears under housing and commercial developments, firefly numbers dwindle. Logging, pollution and increased use of pesticides may also contribute to destroying firefly habitat and natural prey.

Since both male and female fireflies use their flashing lights to communicate and some species synchronize their flashes across large groups of thousands of insects, an increase in light pollution caused by human development could be another reason for the dwindling numbers. Research on these insects has only been done over the past few years, so much of the evidence is anecdotal. None-the-less, it makes sense that humans are having a greater negative impact on our environment than we realize.