Beyond Your Backyard: The Magic Lights of Summer

“Oh hey, can you please turn your outdoor lights off at night? I’ve got some fireflies trying to mate in my backyard and you’re ruining their date night.”

These are the neighbor chats we ecologists have. Outdoor lights can interfere with female fireflies being able to see the male signal (and flash back depending on the species). If they can’t couple up, there’s no baby fireflies. No baby fireflies means no adult fireflies. I can’t think of anything sadder than that.

Fireflies are one of those magic pieces of summer. Catching them in a jar, chasing them while laughing so hard you can barely breathe, and watching them come to life while you play flashlight tag are memories that stick with us through life.

I was shocked to learn there are over 170 different species of fireflies in the U.S. and Canada! Surprisingly, not all of them flash at night, either. Some glow and some put out pheromones during the day and are called dark fireflies. Even though their name suggests they are a fly, they are actually a beetle — the wonders never cease over here. Turns out they are a very helpful beetle that eats slugs and snails and other soft-bodied invertebrates. They are also prey for many species, thus making them an important part of the food web.

Think about how you can make your yard a haven for fireflies. According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, “They thrive in moist habitats with abundant native vegetation, dense leaf litter, and true nighttime darkness.”

Well, what are you waiting for? Plant native plants, leave the leaves, shut those lights off, turn on the Barry White, and let your yard get busy producing the magic lights of summer.