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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. Interested in becoming a guest author? Contact us to let us know!

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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.

Bill

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

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.

Sandy Frye

Fireflies have been declining for quite a few years but this year they have made a big comeback!❤️ Them!

Skelly

Northern Ohio. Just sitting out tonight enjoying them lighting up my yard!! I have not noticed a decline. We had major rain today. I do notice that after a good rain they come out in abundance. Looks like white twinkle lights in the trees. ❤️❤️

Sadie D

Every year I see less and less. It’s so sad. I’m going to do some of these things to try to help. Thank you for the information.

K Eich

Last year ~ I noticed a lot of fireflies around our ditch. 😁

Debbie

North Mississippi area. Have a few more this year than past years. I’m able to leave a wood pile on the back of my property (in the county) and extra wet spring is helping. They are a special treat to see in the evening among the magnolia blooms.

Sam Schultz

When my chickens had free range in my backyard, I never saw fireflies, but now that the chickens are confined to a coop and large, covered dog run (thanks to booming hawk and eagle populations, who ate one of my hens), fireflies are slowly returning.

Oriana

You’ve made a good point! I too live on farm country and the in laws on the same property but didn’t land have free roaming chickens. I now wonder if that is why there aren’t any fireflies here. The property is practically untouched but there isn’t any magic in the summer air. They said they’re done with chickens once they pass so hopefully I will be able to see them again!

Kristin

I was literally just thinking about everything stated in this article. In Eastern Maryland and I have noticed a significant decline since my childhood. So sad.

Robert

I live in savannah ga. there use to be fireflies all over the place down here until they started spraying for mosquitoes and I think the mosquito spray has killed off all of them cuz I haven’t seen none for a long time that’s been years down here

RUSTYN HOLP

I don’t see any fireflies around here anymore. I really can’t remember the last time I saw one. 30 years ago when I was a kid they were everywhere. I don’t like insects generally but I love these bugs! Such a shame they are disappearing. Now we have stink bugs. Horrible!!! I want the fireflies back!!!!!!

Susan Higgins

Rustyn Holp where are you located?

Oriana

The only bugs we have here in north Florida are mosquitos and love bugs it would seem.

Paula

Mine literally disappeared this year. We moved to our current house 5 years ago and never noticed any differences…until this year…gone. Yet, my daughters best friend 5 miles down the road still has them.

Our cicadas are out this year, complete with cicada killers. I’d rather have the fireflies.

Paula

Sorry…northern Delaware

Bill Vanderwesten

Definitely a devastating decline in 2020. In Greenville S.C. outside of the city i have only counted 5 this year while i sit on the porch at dusk till the moon rises. I fear if this is not addressed our children and generations to come will suffer the loss of the species. A world without magic ….how sad.

Loretta Sawaski

Yes, we’re definitely seeing a LOT less fireflies in Indiana than when I was a kid. 50 years ago, my brother & I spent MANY a summer’s eve. catching & releasing them! We still see SOME and, though my daughter has outgrown the thrill, our cat LOVES to chase them!!

Erik Wilson

So 20 years ago we saw more firefly. We were using worst pesticides and more of them because te was more ground being farmed. People were still raking leaves and mowing grass and clearing dead timber. The real culprit must be development.

Bonnie

I still see fireflies by my house. I do have a small flower garden, and we have a woodpile. Hopefully that’s what is keeping them around

Bonnie

We do have fireflies in Walker Michigan. I’ve been noticing that maybe not as many, but they are still around. They still make me smile

LeAnn Ayres (Alabama)

I actually just mentioned to my bestfriend last night that I haven’t seen very many “lightning bugs” as we call them in the south at all and I’m saddened by this.

Racergrl15

I live in Delaware / Maryland area and have only seen 1 individual lightning bug in the last 2 years. When I was a child and growing up I remember them lighting up every night.and they were always everywhere, it was really beautiful. My son only has a chance to see that on a YouTube video. He had no idea what they even were and he is 8.

Renee

Since becoming a beekeeper 4 years ago I do not use any chemicals in my yard. I have noticed many more fireflies this year!!! I have many native flower beds, and 2 acres of clover. Also I keep my shallow pans of water with rocks in for the bees to drink around my property!

Suzanne

I have diffently noticed there are less lighting bugs also walking sticks and caterpillars. I do believe it is from alot of ways we do our lawns now.

Jamie

I’m in Cincinnati Ohio and i literally have asked…where’s are the lightning bugs at? I live by a creek and small patch of woods in an apartment and they use to light up the dusky on set of night. But I noticed at least last summer they weren’t there. Not like before. The show they put on was fabulous! It breaks my heart. Can their eggs survive floods? It has been flooding back when it rains here. Is there something I can do to my balcony for them? Thank u for this.

Ellen Robison

Northern, MI…Fireflies are scarce. I watched a couple in my front yard last week until they disappeared from sight 🙁

Wendy Hardin

I live in Alabama and the fireflies are sparse this year.

sara Roberts

I Live in MO. I just saw one in my yard for the first time in about ten years or so. I stopped using chemicals in the backyard a couple of years ago and put in a small raised garden with native flowers and plants. I also put in a bird bath. It was magical seeing the firefly tonight.

Mary tudbull

I’ve been noticing fewer fireflys for years. 30 years ago they would light up the night. Now, if I see one or two it’s a big deal.

Colin Henshaw

Light pollution is a major environmental threat that is grossly under-estimated. We need a universal culture-change in our attitudes as to how we use light at night. The technology is available to enable responsible deployment of light at night, so every effort must be made to take advantage of this.

Susan Higgins

Hi Colin, we have a good article on it that you might be interested in: Light Pollution: Are you a culprit?

Colin Henshaw

Excellent.

Melissa Reynolds

We moved from upstate NY outside of Albany 15 years ago to the Eastern Shore of VA (between the Chesapeake & the Atlantic). It’s VERY rural here & our night skies are pitch…miraculous stars…but sadly, nary a firefly.
We have a brackish pond, 4 bird baths & we just put in a fountain. We have rotting logs everywhere in the woods surrounding our neighborhood. It would seem we have a perfect environment fir fireflies but we very seldom see them. 🙁

Colin Henshaw

Their distribution may well be very localised. Also their larvæ like to eat slugs, snails and soft bodied insects. If these are lacking in the local environment, then maybe the populations will not thrive.

Daryl

I’m actually seeing more this summer than I’ve seen in a long time. Just had 1 in the house. Saw quite a few last week at a friends house. No where near the numbers I remember as a kid tho

Jayne Wheelin

I live in cocoa Florida I haven’t seen any for a couple of years I used to see a lot

Cathy Jo

I don’t see as many as I did as a child, but I did live in the country. I live in a neighborhood now, but have woods right beside me. I miss seeing them as they bring back good memories!

D.B. Corey

Occurred to me just last night how I don’t see as many, if any. Remembered my childhood summers and lamented their disappearance.

Jeanne LeBlanc

I live in Dieppe N.B. Canada. Tonight June 20 I’m seeing a lightshow of fireflies from my balcony. We live across from a marsh with a lot of wildlife and insects. It’s been years since I’ve seen so many. Love watching them!

Annie

Where I live there are plenty of firefly’s,I explained to my husband if you mow everything down you are destroying many animal habitats. He listened and sees the difference in our area and the nearest neighbor,who has manicured lawns. We have many little animals and some large ones too!

Peggy Duncan

I live in Western NC. I have a firefly oasis here in my neighborhood. I have a 1/4acre wildflower meadow I am planting and lots of gardens. Leaves here are left to rot in place and fireflies must like it as there are a ton of them just right here!

Marian kujtan

Our cottage is near Minden, in Ontario. I was up there two weeks ago, it was a very warm night, and there were tons of fireflies, I haven’t seen them for a couple of years. Our property is very isolated, and mostly large fir trees with maple and birch. I think they prefer warm nights, to shine their lights!

Jennifer

We have definitely noticed way less in the most northwest corner of NJ. Thanks for the great tips to help.

Erica

I live in central VT, and while we still have them, it does seem like there’s not as many as usual. We love watching them, and my daughter has been out a couple evenings this past week to try and catch som (don’t worry, she releases them after!) 🙂

Barbara

I live in central NYS and have only seen a couple this season so far. In the past, I think we’ve seen many more in July but only for a few weeks at most. I love them!

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