Are Fireflies Disappearing?

You may have noticed you haven't seen as many fireflies on these summer nights as you used to. Are they disappearing? Here's what's going on and what you can do to help them make a comeback.

Do you remember those warm summer nights, when the patio was the perfect spot to catch and watch fireflies lighting up the entire backyard? Their lights sparkled and twinkled in the dark, as they communicated with each other through light signals. But lately, their numbers have been dwindling, especially here in Maine, and you may be lucky to spot even one or two. Is it possible that fireflies are disappearing? Are we in danger of losing the spark of fireflies forever?

Turns out, firefly numbers are decreasing all over the country and all over the world. According to Ben Pfeiffer of Firefly.org, most of us are seeing a decline in numbers of the Big Dipper firefly (Photinus pyralis) due to several factors: light pollution, pesticide use, and loss of habitat from development.

Fireflies are picky about where they live and many are not able to recover when their habitats are destroyed or rearranged. So what can you do to help fireflies make a comeback?

Help Fireflies Make A Comeback

Here are a few things you can do to help fireflies in your area. According to Firefly.org, you can:

  • Install water features in your garden.
  • Allow logs to rot. Fireflies spend up to 95% of their lives in larval stages. They live in rotting logs, soil/mud/leaf litter and spend from 1-2 years growing until finally pupating to become adults.
  • Turn your lights off at night (lights can confuse them when they’re trying to mate).
  • Refrain from using lawn chemicals.
  • Plant a garden! Gardens are meccas for fireflies, helping to replace lost habitat. They also supply fireflies with lots of food sources. If you have garden snails, slugs, worms, and other insects, fireflies can lend a hand by helping to control these pests. Plus, females need a place to lay eggs and gardens offer an oasis with a source of soil moisture for larval development.
  • Plant trees and native grasses.
  • Don’t over-mow your lawn.
  • Don’t rake leaves and bag them up for the trash. You are raking up firefly larvae and discarding them.

Check out these fascinating facts about fireflies.

What about where you live? Are you seeing the same number of fireflies as you used to, or are you seeing a decline? Tell us in the comments below.

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Mark Andersen

I have a good amount of fireflies in my southern Connecticut yard. We moved two years ago and the previous house had wetlands in the backyard that was a perfect place for fireflies. Mid-July was a peak and the wetlands looked like a light show. Our new house doesnt have wetlands but my pool cover provides a water source. We’ve had fireflies all summer and even at the end of August they are lighting up the night.

Heather

That must have been gorgeous! We love hearing that some areas are still full of fireflies!

Shelley

I have not seen one firefly in at least 2yrs. That’s why I read this article. I live in Massachusetts. when I was a kid they were everywhere! My cousin, brother, and I would go out and catch them. Could easily catch a dozen within an hour. Not sure if it was a good thing to do, however, it’s one of my favorite memories.
I’m gonna have to do all the things that are suggested!

T.Eacker

Typically in our small back yard in Brooklyn, NY, we would see at least half a dozen fireflies each summer night. This summer, I’ve seen a total of two, despite the fact that we have a small fish pond, pollinator plants and over grown neighboring yards. Almost no fireflies at our place in the Catskills either. It’s totally depressing….

H M

I’ve lived in SW Michigan for my whole life out in the middle of nowhere, rolling grass fields and over 20 acres of woods behind our home. When I was a kid back in the 2000s, we would have so many fireflies; they covered the fields every night through the summer. In the 2010s there were about half as many, and in my teen years I was too focused on school and life to notice back then, but looking back on it now makes me feel sad for missing out on them in their decline. The first time I really noticed that the fireflies were becoming fewer was in 2021. This year, I’ve seen only 3.

Heather

It really is sad! I grew up in Mid-Michigan and remember many nights chasing hundreds of fireflies through the fields!

C.C.

I live near the New River National Park and Preserve in WV, under 1 aeronautical mile away. I’m in a rural residential district. Every year they spay pesticides to control black larvae flies which is harmful to other insects as well. There has been a lot fewer fireflies in recent years.

I think they’re spraying herbicides in the area too because my vegetable garden last year tested for herbicide overuse. I grow everything organic, only use natural fertilizer (poultry) and natural ways of controlling bugs including using guineas in the garden at times. None of the neighbors in the vicinity use any chemicals to treat their yards or plants so how did my plants get herbicides on them?

Last edited 8 months ago by C.C.
Sherri A.

We have lived in Gettysburg, PA, since 2015. The first few years we lived here, there were so many fireflies, it was a light show in our backyard. Last year and this one, there are only a few–two to three. It makes me very sad.

Susan

I live in Uniontown Ohio and my home is surrounded by trees and we’ve very few growing up as a kid there were so many now I’m 60 and there hardly even here anymore

Lucrisia

Hi we live in North Central Arkansas and this year we’ve seen lots of lightening bugs. My great grandkids are scared of them so we’re trying to show them they’re harmless. Last year was very few but it was a very very dry year and so far this year it’s been better. And we just started bee keeping last year so we’re trying hard to leave our planet in better shape. I think so many of our natural plants depends on our weather. We had very few morel mushrooms this year. It was dry during that month.

Nancy Marrison

Fireflies decline

Joyce Graham

I live in the coastal area of SC. We’ve not changed a thing, live in a very rural area and literally in the woods on our 200 acre farm. There have been no sightings of fireflies yet for this year, and we saw very little over the last couple of years. The woods have always been full of them, they lit the woods in the back yard up so wonderfully. But now, they are just gone. We have plenty of the recommendations you provided, always have, but they have just gone away. So sad, was one of our greatest pleasures to watch them from the dark deck at night.

Deborah in Arkansas

I live in South Arkansas & have definitely noticed fewer fireflies. Its heartbreaking to think that something I enjoyed so much as a kid, may not be around for my grandchildren to enjoy as well.

Wanda Sutphin

Here in WV we’ve seen a decline in lightening bugs too. Our yard used to glimmer with their tiny lights, but so far we’ve only seen a few. It would be sad if they disappeared completely.

Tracee Stewart

I Live in western North Carolina, the Piedmont triad area…I haven’t seen one lightening bug at all this year so far. They used to start showing in early May… I Live in a rural area in and around woods. There’s creeks around and I have several fountains. There’s rotting wood and leaves galore. But yet no bugs. I have noticed the decline for years now. Very sad. There’s all kinds of wildflowers that grow and I have several gardens full. It’s not helping…..

Bill

I live in southwest lower MI and the fireflies have all but disappeared. It’s surprising too because I live in a relatively wooded area. Years ago, you couldn’t count them all, there were that many. Now, on a good night, you might see half a dozen in the woods. The light pollution is terrible. First, it caused the bats to leave, now it seems the fireflies are finished too.

LINDA DAVIS

I live in Indianapolis, IN. The last couple of years, we have seen an over abundance of Fireflys (Lightening Bugs). just started seeing a few in the last couple of days. Hopefully we will see more.

Carolyn in GA

Live in north central GA near Atlanta and have really noticed a decline in the firefly population over the last two years. So sad, live overlooking a grassy bluff that drops down to a creek.

S Hester

I live in a rural area in NE MS and thankfully, am surrounded by woods that are full of fireflies. They have been here for a couple of months and I was surprised to see them out when it was still cooler weather. I love to sit outside at night and watch them and count all the planes and satellites flying overhead. (Btw, our skies are really over populated with satellites! I counted 53 of them in a string when I started counting, and later learned that there had been 56 launched early that morning about 1:00 am. )

Patsy Montana

I’m in central NC and I just saw my first firefly last night, nearly a month later than last year. Thus far I’ve seen only a couple. I would be very sad to lose them

Thanks for the background sketch. I had no idea fireflies helped keep garden pests under control! I’ve just loved them for adding such a unique beauty to our southern nights.

Bruce Comeau

Our yard here in West Bend Wisconsin and the town in general has seen no decline as of yet. We have an urban garden lot, and have hawk moths, fire flies and more on our tiny city lot. We noticed the decline of pollinators like honey bees, but noticed other pollinators stepping up into the gap. The carpenter bees, leaf cutter bees and a variety of very small wasp-like predatory pollination bugs too. The dirty shame of weed killers, and mosquitos sprays are ripping out many bees and starving some in eliminating the flowering “weeds” dandelions , milk-weeds and others.
We are very vocal to our friends who are spraying “bee killing” weed poisons.

Heather

Thank you for helping create a haven for these pollinators. Best of luck!

Lefty Cooley

This is interesting that you have published this article at this moment. I have been noticing this same phenomenon here at my homestead and I’ll told my wife this, where are the lighting bugs? It’s sad to think such a precious little bug that represents the essence of summer is being annihilated. I could go on and on about this and how mankind is destroying the planet in the name of “progress!”

Michael Horne

Me and my wife were just sitting on our porch last night talking about not seeing as many lightning bugs as we did when we were kids. We live in Nickelsville Virginia.

Melissa

Hi. I’m in northeast Georgia USA. I was just saying the other night I haven’t seen any. Was wondering what was going on. This makes me so sad. I always loved watching them.

Glennis Hogan

I have not seen fireflies for years. As a child, I caught them and put them in jars and loved to chase them in the yard. Warm summer nights playing in the yard with them were a good memory. Fireflies and Horned toads have disappeared in my area. Denton, Texas

Karen Upman

I live in a Small Town Called Grainger County in East TN and Yes I’m Seeing a Really Big decline in Fire Flies, When We Moved here 20yr ago They would just amaze Me there were so many but Our Neighbors have Put up Huge Bright Lights that Stay on from dusk til dawn and I think it is whats caused the decline, I Do All the thing’s I can to Keep Them coming but I truly think the Huge Bright Lights have got Them confused So therefore I’m not Seeing hardly any and its sad, They’re so Beautiful but slowly They’re going Away ?

Heather

Bright lights at night actually do cause a significant impact on insects and wildlife alike. Here is some more information on why dark skies are important for more than just clear star-gazing. https://www.farmersalmanac.com/dark-sky-waterton-glacier-28202

Cheryl

Nearly absent here in rural Georgia.

Nancy

I just moved to NorthEastern Tennessee from Central NY. I use zero pesticides and always have a lush garden. Last summer (2022) I saw many Fireflies in NY. 2021 summer was sparse though, despite my healthy conditions from them. Fireflies are just making their appearance in Tennessee. They seem to be increasing in number each day. ????

Heather

We love to hear that! Thanks for creating a safe space for them to thrive!

Peggy Cahill

We live in rural northern VT and have noticed a decline over the last 10 yrs or more. ? Our weather’s been like a roller coaster so far this year. I did see a few earlier this spring when we had a week of hot weather but then we had a freeze. Now it’s wet & cool.

Mary

In western Nebraska we never really saw a lot of Fireflies but now we are lucky to see one or two a year.

Donna

Many years ago, when I lived in Ohio, I used see fire flies all the time. My brother, sister. and I used to call them lightning bugs.

i live in the Pacific Northwest now, in central Washington to be exact. I’ve lived here for 35 years and don’t think I’ve ever seen a firefly.

Dottie

I have seen one so far. I will be doing what ever I can to help them come back.

Doris

I live in fishers Indiana, which is right in the middle of the state, and exactly what you’re talking about is happening here. When I was a kid 70 years ago we watched the wonder of fire flies and they were thick in our country home area. They are declining And I blame it on the chemicals used to fight mosquitoes and just like all the wild life have no place to go with all the development

Michelle

I’m in south Eastern Michigan and we don’t see may at all anymore. I also see very few bees and butterflies. To many people use pesticides to kill the weeds in their grass. So sad!!

Melinda Harper

Hey there, Melinda here. I live in China Spring TX and the number if fireflies are certainly declining. It makes me so sad to see something that brought us so much joy as kids and even as adults disappearing. I personally am going to do implement all of the suggestions to help fireflies.

Heather

Thank you for helping!

Patty

I grew up in Northern Indiana until 2020 I have not seen any fireflies since 2015. I have been in Florida since March 2020, I have not seen one firefly. I beg my friends to not use pesticides, salt works well for weeds.

Joy

So sad to say that I didn’t see a single firefly this summer in our Iowa town.

Dale

Definitely a noticeable decrease this year in Ohio. I also noticed that there weren’t any grasshoppers in combine graintanks during wheat harvest. Usually when you get a tank full of grain there are a bunch in there.

Tari

There has been decrease of lightening bugs and also mosquitoes on my property in IN over the last 2-3 years. Something is up.

Deanna

I live in NJ and haven’t seen 1 firefly this August. I noticed a definite decline this summer in general. It’s really disheartening.

Roy springs

A decline

Bella

I live in Florida. When I was a child there were hundreds of fire flies . But in the last 20 years, I have not seen one here. I took a trip to Mexico recently and there were so many! I am saddened by the lack of fire flies in Florida. Wish they would return so I could share the experience with my grand children.

Alex

Same in eastern europe, Romania, when I was a child, over a bit more than 20 years, every summers there were a lot, like thousands, one year I catched almost a bottle of 0.5L with them. Not ok, I know, but I was small and there were so many. I left them fly after. In the pas few years I remember seeing just ONE..and I don’t like in a big city, been to the country side, same, less insects.

Gary

I’ve seen more in Plymouth County this year than I have in many years. I remember seeing them every summer when I was a kid. I’m now 70 and this is the first time I remember seeing them since my wife and I bought our house in 1991. Maybe they are making a comeback.

Lois Klemens

I’ve been in mourning all summer about this lack of firefly situation that I’ve noticed. I loved them so much as a kid.?

Beverly Bredemeyer

I am 69 and for the past couple of years I have noticed that there haven’t been as many fireflies around. Growing up I remember our yards just twinkled in the twilight before being called in to get ready for bed. We also had open ditches and people weren’t so anal about raking up every fallen leaf. I live on a freshwater lake which may be why I still see a few; but, oh so few.

Alex

You still see, that’s good, here I’ve seen just one this year, all alone by himself. 20 years ago there were thousands.

Cathy

Th fire flies have become so few in numbers where I live in NC. It is so very sad when I think about my childhood and the thousands of them out at night.

James

We have as many or more than we had when I was a kid here in Tennessee. They’re not disappearing here they’re thriving

Stacy

We are in Southeast Ohio and have many “lightning bugs”.

Stephanie Watson

I’m in Missouri and we have lots this year in our back yard!

Sarah Mills

We are seeking more fireflies in our area over the last few years. We are in western Virginia and can recall a significant number in the 80’s and 90’s, then a reduction in number throughout 2000’s and 2010’s.

RA Spencer

I am in Central Alberta, and have seen fireflies for the 1st time in many many years!

Cathy

Probably too many people making firefly jewelry in their youth….?

Deanna

Ugh! My mom showed me how to make pretty glow rings in the early 70’s – I thought it was so cool! I just figured that the lightening bug who’s light I took could hang with a friend to see in the dark. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that I was killing them?

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