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.

Many of us have great memories of watching and catching fireflies on warm summer nights. Remember sitting out on the patio and watching them light up the back yard? One would call, and another would answer, all via light. But lately, especially here in Maine, you may have noticed the numbers are declining. You’ll maybe see one or two. Are fireflies disappearing? Will the magic they bring to our warm evenings soon be gone 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.

This article was published by the staff at Farmers' Almanac. Do you have a question or an idea for an article? Contact us!

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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?

Amy Roberts

We live in Howard , Pa, center if the state, surrounded by forest and state park. We have fire flies but have noticed a decline. We have plenty of gardens, bird, bee, butterfly and critter friendly. They usually come out more around the beginning of July. Usually they can be seen in our tall oaks the whole way to the top, but gypsy moths have stripped them of their leaves! We’ll see and keep you updated!

Rhonda

We have noticed quite a few more this year. The last two years not so much, but this year they are everywhere. I just talked with another friend today about this who also said they are seeing more too. We live in northern Kentucky. My kids and I were out really late the other night just enjoying the sights of the little lighting bugs as they call them here.

Chapman Lisa

I live on the central west coast of Florida and haven’t seen any here the last couple of years.

Shirley

I live in NE MS and my home is surrounded by woods and water, so I am very fortunate to be able to sit outside at night and enjoy the beauty of hundreds of these fascinating little marvels lighting up my little corner of the world.

Sandi Duncan

You are lucky Shirley and it’s wonderful that you realize that! Enjoy them!

Aleman Mary

I live in northern Minnesota. Growing up there was always alot of fireflies but now I can’t remember the last time I saw one..so sad! The frigs have stopped singing on a summer night too!

Aleman Mary

That should be frogs not frigs!

Sandi Duncan

The frogs too? Hope they come back!

Linda S McMurray

We live in southeastern Kansas in the country. Five years ago, and longer, we would enjoy thousands of fireflies in our yard and 20 acre meadow with native grass and trees. Now we can count the number of fireflies in our yard on one hand. From your article, it would seem that we have the ideal environment for fireflies. We do not use pesticides, but am assuming a neighboring farm has at some point in time. It is so tragic not to see fireflies in the summers.

Sandi Duncan

Hi Liinda,
It is sad. I hope they make a comeback.

Stacey White

We live in Holstein Missouri and we have so many fireflies on our property. We live in the middle of a huge field that is allowed to grow up (native grasses) and is cut/baled 2 times a year. We have forest and tree line nearby. We don’t over mow our yard that is surrounded by the field. We have so many that they often find their way into our home! They light up the field at night and it is breathtaking. I hope their numbers stay high in our neck of the woods and everywhere for that matter.

Sandi Duncan

These are one bug that I think everyone agrees is on the most-wanted list. Thanks for commenting here.

June Demaaijer

I live near Asheville, NC. I remember when there were so many fireflies that it seemed like the 4th of July! I have seen two so far this year. The name of the road I live on is named for fireflies. I am very concerned about losing them.

Kara

I’m fortunate to live next to a nature preserve in rural Connecticut. My yard is surrounded by meadows and forest, all twinkling tonight with the little sparkles from thousands of lightening bugs. I can’t believe how many there are, it’s like a moving night sky full of flying stars. So lucky!

Sandi Duncan

Hi Kara

You are lucky! They are such a wonderful reminder of the amazing ways nature continues to astonish us. Enjoy them!

Soncerae Sanville

I love fireflies when I was a child I loves catching them in a jar then when it was time for bed my other siblings and myself would let them out of the jar lose in our rooms so we could enjoy them.I have noticed for the couple past years u either don’t see any or u do but not as many. We the ppl need to be these fireflies voice and other animal’s voices cuz they can’t do it we need to stand up and stop the cutting, and the poison’s and we all need to start keeping this earth clean.

Carlee

I lived in a rural borough in south-central PA, at the base of a mountain. They had such strict zoning rules. Grass couldn’t be over 6 inches. No leaves in yard, no weeds, nothing. They have destroyed the eco system there, and it’s probably effecting the mountain behind them too. But one problem is the tick population in PA, especially Lyme disease & now more tick-related-illness due to climate change (warmer environment is attracting ticks that usually dwell in the south). If we let our grass & weeds grow, it harbors more ticks. I think my dog got Lyme disease from our yard. I got it about 7 miles from home, on the neighboring mountain. I don’t know the solution bc we need pollinating plants/weeds/grass

Claudia Owens

I loved seeing them as a child and miss that magical experience. I never see any in my town in the north shore of Massachusetts.

Sandi Duncan

Hi Claudia,
There is something magical about them isn’t there? In NJ I see more than New England. Hope you spot a few this summer.

Kelly

I used to send summers in Vermont with my grandparents and fireflies were everywhere, now I don’t think I’ve seen more than one or two throughout the entire summer!!! I loved catching them and putting them in jars in our rooms when we went to bed like night lights!!! I live on Cape Cod now and don’t think I saw even one last summer!! Let’s help them come back!!

Noela

I’m in central Connecticut and haven’t seen a Firefly in so long?

Sandi Duncan

What a big bummer. If there was any bug we would want to see it’s the firefly. Hope they make a comeback this summer.

Sharron

i’m 20 miles south of Tallahassee and have a stream in my back yard also plenty of rotted sticks and underbrush

Sharron

4/27/22 tonight there were so many fireflies in my yard it was the first time i’ve seen this many since i was a teenager!

Joy

Where are you located?

Daniel

I live in Philadelphia PA around the fernrock train station area I haven’t seen lightning bugs since the 80tys when I was a little boy

Carlee

I live in south-central PA, rural area, and even out here, there is only a small fraction of the fireflies there used to be

Jeanne Davis

I just came across this article. Now it alerted me. Wow, I just realized I haven’t seen any lightning bugs for what, about 10 years!? Sad, I miss them now.

Aaron Talley

When I was a kid in the 80’s in Central WI, they were everywhere. We used to catch a few every night. Moved back to Central WI 20 years ago. Dont recall seeing any until the last two years when I’ve seen a few in our yard, early summer.

Cecil

It has been years since I’ve seen lightning bugs here in Mobile, AL. I have blamed the mosquito trucks.
BUT I have stopped spraying the yard because we had a population explosion of wrens and I didn’t want to hurt them. Bees and dragonflies have increased. Different butterfly species have come to my wife’s flowers. And hummingbird moths which I haven’t seen in decades also showed up. Now fireflies are back. It makes a difference!

Oriana

I haven’t seen fireflies on Long Island NY since around year 2,000. I moved to farm land Florida where most of the acreage is left untouched and still even here there are none. Summer doesn’t quite feel like summer without fireflies. The magic has been gone for a long time I’m afraid. ?

David G.

I live in the St Louis area. The lightening bugs are gone early this year since it is only late August. They are usually here until late September.

Baryb Kawtski

we had a normal early summer season but now we are only seeing a few fireflies. Our monarch pop is way down. Very dry here in S.E. WI.

Carlee

I haven’t seen a monarch in PA in a few years. When I was a kid there were so many that we’d find them dead along the highway from getting blown around and hit by cars. I actually don’t see a lot of butterflies anymore. Even the moths, there’s not as many. And the more developments that pop up, the worse it will be bc of HOA and zoning laws. That’s exactly why we want to buy a property in the woods, where there’s no zoning laws to Inhibit our property from natural growth

Bill

Not only fewer lightning bugs, but there are fewer bees and butterflies too here in East Tennessee.

Carlee

Same here. We don’t even really get monarch butterflies anymore. I’ve seen less ruby throated hummingbirds & other migratory birds as well. My apt building when I moved in 2 yrs ago, there was a strong population of blue barn swallows. They’re great, they eat flying insects so they keep my porch free of mosquitoes, flies, and bees. But they poop right out of their nests, and the neighbors don’t like it. I’ve had to defend these birds fiercely due to neighbors destroying their nests, even sometimes with baby birds inside. Now 2 years later, so far I’ve only seen 2 couples of the birds. They come here to mate & that flock clearly sees my building as hostile to that. It’s sad bc they weren’t always “barn swallows”. I’m sure a time existed where these birds didn’t need to use human structures to build their nests….

Chris

I live in northern IL (40 miles north of Chicago) and haven’t seen a firefly around here in years. They were plentiful here decades ago. Summers just aren’t the same without them twinkling at dusk.

Dorothy L

I live near Pittsburgh PA and saw the first lightning bugs of the year last night (7-17-21j. Other years I’d see them much earlier mostly May. As a kid I couldn’t understand them being called June Bugs when they always came out in May and be gone by June. I live near a creek on the edge of a wooded area, lots of leaf mulch, rotting logs,, use poison Ivy killer only when necessary. I’ve always fed the birds but since the Game Commission requested we stop feeding the birds due to a troubling bird death incline as yet unidentified, I now worry about my “hungry birds” eating more of the helpful bugs around here. I’m also seeing far fewer dragonflies and they are less colorful.

Jane

Sadly I am not seeing any fireflies in Cranberry Isles, Maine. Our property is kept pretty wild, according to your recommendations. I’m also concerned about many fewer spiders, grasshoppers, dragonflies…

Anne

I forgot to mention I live near Philadelphia, PA.

Anne

Dusk was long passed when I went to close the doors on my two chicken coops. The motion detector lights came on to light my way and speed the task. I wanted to get away from the lights. I wanted the lights to go out. The yard was filled with hundreds, maybe thousands,, of flashing fireflies and I wanted to view them . From the grass to above the highest trees. I stood just staring at the beauty of the display. I looked across the street at the neighbors where there were scarcely any, I turned to view other neighbors, same. Hardly any. But back in my yard it’s gorgeous.i think they all live here. I’m an organic homesteaders. I love seeing that my lifestyle is enjoyed by nature. I hope my neighbors notice and stop using pesticides and build places for the insects into their yards too.

Susan Higgins

Wonderful, Anne, thanks for sharing!

Robert Wyche

Here in South East Texas I live out in the country , have a garden ,have lots of hardwood forrest around me, lots of pastures and still the fireflies are few and far between. It is very sad to have grand children that won’t experience what we did as children.

buggybonnet

I’ve only seen a couple of fireflies here in Central Kansas this year. I noticed their decline for the first time last year.

Wheresthebugs

I live outside of Pittsburgh, and there are definitely less lightning bugs in 2021 ?

Bob

I’ve seen very few in western Pennsylvania June-July 2021.

AmyRose Tomlinson

Yes, I have seen a MAJOR decline in fireflies in Missouri :(.

The summers used to brag skies full of them, and now I’m lucky if I see ONE per evening.

Barbara Lavietes

Until about 3 months ago I saw fireflies, a declining number from past years. Since then, I have seen perhaps 5 or 6 about 3 weeks ago, but none, zero, 0 – since. I am heartbroken. I live in a large condo complex and have absolutely no say about yard maintenance. There is an answer for every suggestion to make the grounds stay a little shaggier for better wildlife habitat.

Barbara Lavietes

I neglected to say this is in southern Florida.

Susan Higgins

Hi Barbara, it’s a shame that all this manicuring of lawns benefits no one, especially not pollinators. Thanks for your comment.

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