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Are Fireflies Disappearing?

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Are Fireflies Disappearing?

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? 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.

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67 comments

1 Terri { 07.15.19 at 10:50 pm }

I live in Southern North Carolina in a rural area on a farm. My home is in a wooded area with an environment suitable for fireflies. I see a fair amount showing off their magnificent lights at night. I enjoy watching them. Takes me back to my childhood.

2 Kate { 07.14.19 at 11:02 am }

I live in SE Minnesota, and have seen more lightening bugs this year than ever before. As a kid we caught them and put grass and a little water in a quart jar and watched them. Fond memories!

3 Kiyle { 07.13.19 at 11:33 pm }

I live in NW PA along Lake Erie and they are almost gone. We had plenty about five years ago, but we only saw five or six so far this year, few enough to count. It’s really sad.

4 Yvonne Riggs { 07.13.19 at 2:11 pm }

Northwest Florida in the 60s. As a child I enjoyed fireflies at desk and into the night. I never see any now I talked about it a lot. So many things have disappeared, sand fleas, Sea oats, silver dollars…. And the list goes on.

5 Winnie reed { 07.12.19 at 4:35 pm }

I live in Central New Jersey. The fireflies this year are so many , at dusk it’s like a twinkling blanket rising up from the lawn. I don’t use pesticides or weed killer. Mow the lawn high and have many flower gardens. My neighbors have lawns sprayed for weeds and don’t have fireflies.

6 Jessica { 07.12.19 at 4:24 pm }

I live in Corydon, Indiana. My son and I live in “town” in an apartment and there aren’t that many lightning bugs. But we were able to plant a flower pot garden and the bugs seem to like it! The rest of the county is pretty rural, especially where my parents live and there’s still tons out in the fields.

7 Julie { 07.12.19 at 10:20 am }

We have a lot of them here at my house. We do most of the above mentioned. At night it looks like little magical fireworks.

8 Sherry { 07.10.19 at 1:35 pm }

Southeast Michigan. 4+ acres mostly wooded. Tons of fireflies. Absolutely beautiful in the front and backyard, but my son insisted I take a walk into the woods with him late one night and it was magical! We came into a clearing and it was like I was in a fairy dream. The whole world was glittering like diamonds. I’ll never forget that special moment with him. ❤️

9 Nikki { 07.07.19 at 12:14 pm }

We have a ton of lighten bug / fireflies here in Kansas and my grandchildren love them

10 Anita { 07.06.19 at 5:39 pm }

We live in North Georgia and have had a ton of fireflies this summer. We do have most of the criteria mentioned on 35 Acres, River, gardens etc. We love sitting on the porch at night, no lights and just taking in the memories. I nearly like them as much as the whippoorwill!!

11 Carolann { 07.06.19 at 9:27 am }

I am in Jackson , NJ and I am happy to report that I enjoy a nightly show of lightning bugs. I believe there are more this year than last. I would love to put the “show” to music!

12 Lanette { 07.06.19 at 1:47 am }

Northern Ohio has a lot here

13 Jan Pratt { 07.05.19 at 11:47 pm }

I live in northern Illinois and I have a lot of fire flies this yr. But I have everything they need I guess after reading the article. I Love watching them.

14 Jeanne { 07.05.19 at 8:49 pm }

I live in NE Pennsylvania. I’ve noticed very few lightning bugs these last few years, and I pay attention to this. Why? As long as I can remember, I’ve caught a lightning bug each summer–my own personal tradition. I’ve even told my husband he’ll have to wheel me outside to do this when I get to the point I can’t get outside myself. Well last year he caught one for me and this year one got trapped in the house somehow. We live in the country where you’d think they’d still flourish. It’s a sad situation, both personally and environmentally.

15 Linda { 07.05.19 at 7:50 pm }

I live in East Tennessee. See many more than last year. I planted a garden, have a goldfish pond and lots of tree brush in ghe6 back of our yard by a gully. Last year saw very few, this year so,many more. love them.

16 Deb { 07.05.19 at 5:09 pm }

We have a nice light show quite often more than last year. Organic soil no removal of leaf litter. No pesticides 2 Garden beds plus flowers and fruiting shrubs. Rainwater as much as possible. Tap water we let sit out before using to get rid of some of the chemicals in them (like bleach)before using. Hope we are helping firefly population grow.

17 NN { 07.05.19 at 2:29 pm }

I live in southeast lower peninsula of Michigan. For the last 8 years the fireflies have been around. I think it is because I have ideal conditions. Very damp situation in my back yard. I live in a suburb. Only occasionally use fertilizer with weed killer on my lawn. Otherwise no pesticides. Just love the little guys. They are quite abundant on family property about 1-1/2 hours north of me. Not developed and again, no chemicals are used and it has wet conditions.

18 Gwen Hendrix { 07.05.19 at 12:25 pm }

I live in Connecticut and this is the first time in years that I’ve seen fireflies. I don’t recall seeing this many since I was young. We’ve had substantial amount of rain this year, and live in a area that’s pretty secluded and undisturbed. Nice to see this fabulous light show once again!

19 Sue Fulton { 07.05.19 at 10:01 am }

In the Williamsport PA area, (north central PA) we have abundant fireflies. Everywhere.

20 Terri Buccarelli { 07.04.19 at 4:50 pm }

I have noticed fewer fireflies here in coastal southern Monmouth County NJ.
Seems there were SO many when I was a kid!
We seem to be a good habitat for fireflies: we have a wooded lot, several water features, no lawn (moss everywhere) due to the 3 dozen or so trees, and many potted plants. I guess I can stop bugging my DH to remove the rotting logs in the back of the yard! 🙂

21 Jim Harkness { 07.03.19 at 5:26 pm }

Sorry to report that we very seldom see them in Minneapolis these days, whereas I can remember lots in our yard in Milwaukee when I was growing up in the late 60s. In rural western MN, though, they still seem to be doing fine. We camped recently at Blue Mounds State Park, near the intersection of MN, IA and SD, and fireflies were abundant!

22 Erin { 07.02.19 at 11:10 pm }

We live on 7 acres in Western PA, with a big garden, a 3 acre field, and a couple acres of forest. We see an amazing number of fireflies in our yard! My boys count them for citizen science reports, and by mid-June there are so many they lose count. So beautiful to watch each night.

23 Erica F { 07.02.19 at 9:22 am }

I live in a North Jersey suburb and I’d say the firefly population is about the same as it was growing up in the 80s. I only have a typical sized lot for around here (50×110) but I have a little stack of tree branches along the back fence that I’ve left as a small habitat, an organic vegetable garden (which they seem to love), pollinator perennials in the front, and clovers instead of a proper lawn in the back. It is so awesome to continue to watch the lightening bugs light up both the front and back yard at night. One of the happiest signs of summer.

24 Susan { 07.02.19 at 12:23 am }

I grew up on the East coast in NJ and then lived in Maryland for many years. There were many fireflies visible on summer nights. I have lived in Colorado for the past 28 years and have never seen a firefly. I don’t know if they were ever here due to the dry climate and higher altitude. Can someone confirm this? I visited a friend back east 2 summers ago and we went to Longwood Gardens at night and there were lots of fireflies, it was magical! It seemed to me there were as many or more than I recall seeing as a child growing up in the 1950’s in NJ. Perhaps so many were visible in Longwood Gardens because fewer pesticides are used and it was a safer environment for them to flourish.

25 Christine F { 07.01.19 at 10:32 pm }

We see many where we vacation in southeastern Massachusetts. My family is participating in this Firefly Watch that anyone can be a part of. You simply commit to observing your yard (or another outdoor spot) once a week. Check it out here: https://www.massaudubon.org/get-involved/citizen-science/firefly-watch

26 Richard Coppens { 07.01.19 at 9:45 pm }

Noticed more lightening bugs this year in Franconia Pa. Big gardens, mulch bins for our leaves and grass has made a difference.

27 Patty { 07.01.19 at 4:23 pm }

We have record numbers. Of course we garden extensively. Leave lots of natural area, have no lights outside at night, Mow every couple of weeks – where we mow, We do rake our leaves but then dump them in the garden paths. (perhaps that is why we have so many fireflies in the garden. ) We also live a half mile from any neighbors. We live in the Ozark Mountains of Northern Arkansas.

28 Ann Nevans { 07.01.19 at 11:26 am }

I have a noticed how much fewer there are in Thailand where I spend the winters. Unfortunately there are too many lights left on at night. I know that has affected them. Also too much development and pesticide use. Very sad

29 Terry Gallagher { 07.01.19 at 11:00 am }

I only just noticed a couple fireflies last night here in southeastern Massachusetts. It could be that the weather has only recently become summer-like with temps finally reaching into the 70s! Now that I am aware of a potential decline in numbers, I will be sure we continue to follow the suggestions in the article…hoping to see more as the summer moves along.

30 Susan Bush { 07.01.19 at 10:53 am }

I live in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. We have a 7 acre farm and we have seen an abundance of fireflies, especially this year. Beautiful to watch.

31 Becky Chapman { 07.01.19 at 8:10 am }

I grew up in western NY, and summertime the evenings glittered like like Christmas. I moved to South Carolina in 2011 and thought lightning bugs were a northern thing. Then we moved to the country and I saw a few but nothing like the populations of them in Western NY. After we lived here a couple of years the population has increased. I’m guessing we’re doing the right things. I don’t mow the lawn every week, my neighbor has honey bees and they like the clover. I only mow just enough too keep the weeds down. We have 9 acres of woods backed by a river with only trails through it. It mostly gone back to being wild and natural. If that’s what lightning bugs like I’ll be mindful to keep it that way.

32 Justin Kashtock { 06.30.19 at 11:41 pm }

Here in Northern Virginia, their numbers don’t really seem to have dipped, but for me specifically that could be because I grew up in a house that abutted the woods, and now living one county away I once again live in a house contiguous to a similar sized section of forest. I’m not sure other neighborhoods in my area would really be able to say the same though because it is a somewhat over-developed suburban area.
Now, when we visit family at the farmhouse in central Virginia within the lovely Nelson County, the chorus of lights is visually deafening with its roar of fiery photons. The large walnut tree flashes like a Christmas tree adorned with a multitude of lights that have been garnished with lametta, while the field in front of the house seems as if it is filled with thousands of tiny photographers, each rushing to capture the beauty of a moonlight night among the tranquil foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It’s quite a sight to behold – I’ve tried to capture it on my camera with prolonged exposures to no avail – I may take a different camera (cheaper, but more modern) to see if I can get a better shot of them next time we visit.

33 Susan Obaza { 06.30.19 at 7:41 pm }

I now reside in Delaware, and yes…I remember fireflies lighting up the summer nights as a child. Our next door neighbor’s yard looked like it was glowing. I got scared when I realized recently I have not seen many of them. Not like I was used to growing up. I wondered if they were dying off. I did see some properties out on country roads that seemed like they had a good population. But they do seem like they aren’t around nearly as much as they used to be.

34 Jennifer Dunn { 06.30.19 at 4:37 pm }

We live in SW Missouri and we actually have seen more fireflies than ever this summer! We live in the country. As I read the things suggested to help fireflies, I realized we were doing everyone of them, so it must work! Lol!

35 Edith Katz { 06.30.19 at 10:05 am }

I live on Long Island, NY. I am observing fewer and fewer fireflies…and I just love them so very much…even wrote a poem about them some years back.
i usually would see them the middle of June… they only started coming out the very end of June this year and very few and the few that came only a few had bright long lasting lights… there were some the that had short fast blinkers that were not so bright…scary news…

36 Alysa { 06.30.19 at 9:09 am }

We live in Bourbon, Mo in the country. We have so many that it looks like someone is throwing glitter in the air.

37 Lynne { 06.30.19 at 8:04 am }

I live in N Guilford CT. I am living on a natural lake and we have fireflies.
I watch their dance every night for the past week

38 Liana Morley { 06.29.19 at 9:45 pm }

I live South closet to Cape Cod on White Island Pond & the weather here in New England tonight is warm & muggy. We live in the woods & our Fire Fly fly rampid! Gotta love Summer months.

39 Nancy Taylor { 06.29.19 at 2:20 pm }

I live in a development in the country. Each house has an acre of land and lots of trees. I have quite a few lightening bugs every night. They bring back such good memories of my youth in the late 40’s.

40 Tim { 06.29.19 at 2:10 pm }

I live in So. Calif., why are there no fire flys here out west?

41 Nancy Fetterolf { 06.29.19 at 11:58 am }

I live in PA and last year the trees looked like they had Christmas lights on them. I only saw about 4 or 5 last night. So sad😢

42 Kathy { 06.29.19 at 11:28 am }

In West Michigan, the fireflies seem to have arrived late this year – well into June, but then our spring was cold and wet compared to average. Now that they are here, they seemed few at first, but this morning at about 4 am when I looked out the window their numbers seemed greater than they were a few days ago, so it may be that they are just getting started!
Oddly, they were flickering their little selves at 4 am, but other years they seemed to turn out their lights at around 10 pm, or within an hour of dark falling. Does anyone know why that might be?

43 Gretta { 06.29.19 at 10:32 am }

I live in Virginia and here they seem plentiful. We see them during the day in our plants. More this year than we e seen in awhile.

44 Dawn { 06.29.19 at 9:56 am }

Union, MO

45 Dawn { 06.29.19 at 9:53 am }

Every year our hay pasture is usually covered with them, it’s like a light show! This year there’s only a few down there. No changes have been made here. So sad!

46 Francine { 06.29.19 at 9:14 am }

I live in Ontario, Canada. We have lots of green space and forests. I have not seen a firefly in the city since I was a kid. Its very sad. I think light pollution might have a lot to do with the decline. But I’m not 100% sure. I miss them. I wonder if north of where we are in cottage country see them.

47 RSE { 06.29.19 at 8:00 am }

I live in southern Delaware and our numbers of fireflies seem to be fine. See them by the tens of thousands. They are probably at their peak now, and will dwindle off over the next month or two. The firefly Festival in Dover was just last week.

48 Marsha { 06.28.19 at 9:47 pm }

Grew up in Western KY and moved over the river to Southern IL (big mistake, that’s another story). Lighting bugs use to be abundant. Now we’re lucky if we see any. I’ve planted a garden this year strictly to attract bee’s, butterflies and hummingbirds with water in the middle. I hope it draws lightingbugs. I need to read up on what they like. We don’t use any kind of pesticides on our yard, plants, fruit trees etc. We have chickens to help out and don’t want to posion them. I wish people would stop using Roundup and the like.

49 Andrea C Sampley { 06.28.19 at 9:06 pm }

I live in a suburb of OKC, OK. We don’t spray, we have a pond, we cut our grass high, we have several native flowers, we have quite a few rotting logs and have let the leaves fall and mulch themselves. We usually have quite a few fireflies and this summer we have seen the most ever. Not as thick as I’ve seen in a KS field, but enough that you see several light up at one time. I’m concerned after reading this article because we have a fungal disease killing some bushes. I bagged the leaves and sprayed, first time in 18 yrs.

50 Pam Meyer { 06.28.19 at 9:04 pm }

Live north of Houston Tx and see very few. We have woods and downed trees. I grew up in the country in MO and there were always tons every night.

51 Oona Mc { 06.28.19 at 8:27 pm }

I live in the country, west central Florida. This spring has been the best ever for lightening bugs.

52 Judy Waterrose { 06.28.19 at 7:53 pm }

I live in Elma,NY. Every year at this time the fireflies alight.
I have a small damp woods I leave alone. Ferns,rotting trees,moss,all my dead leaves(and there are many) go back there. By the end of the month it is like fairyland,at night

53 Nancy Ackerman { 06.28.19 at 7:22 pm }

We live in the mountains of northeast Georgia and see an abundance of fireflies each evening. We do have a water feature and lots of trees and flowers. It’s nice to see them.

54 Linda McMurray { 06.28.19 at 7:17 pm }

We’ve lived in the country in Kansas for 20 years. Ten years ago the fireflies were absolutely thick! It was a beautiful sight. But for the last 4-5 years we have seen hardly any. Can’t put a finger on any environmental changes in our neighborhood. Sure miss them!!!!

55 Lisa T { 06.28.19 at 7:06 pm }

We are up in northern MN and we have seen them several nights. Lots of woods and lakes around us so they’re happy. Many dragon flies, even when we are in the boat fishing the dragon flies are like drones and stay with the boat while trolling.

56 Matthew { 06.28.19 at 6:13 pm }

My backyard here in Texas has quite a few every evening. Love sitting outside on the patio watching them!

57 Vivienne { 06.28.19 at 5:59 pm }

I am in Amherst Massachusetts and have a five acre open field behind my house. Beyond that is woodland. The past few nights I have seen the field light up with a myriad fireflies. It was truly a breathtaking sight.

58 Paula White { 06.28.19 at 5:57 pm }

I live in southwestern Louisiana and we have very few lightening bugs as we call them.i will try these suggestions to help them. Thank you for the ideas.

59 Linda Lane { 06.28.19 at 5:32 pm }

I moved to the country four years ago, and didn’t see any, but in the ensuing years have been seeing more each year.

60 Iyam Whudiyam { 06.28.19 at 5:26 pm }

Fireflies have been non-existent for years in the Saint Augustine, Fl area. We are heavily sprayed for mosquito control. Sad consequence.

61 Linda Marciana { 06.28.19 at 4:43 pm }

I live in centrsl New York, Holland Patent. There are some nihhts when the unmowed hayfields here light up like millions of diamonds usually from mid june til late august. This year, we had a late colder spring with a lot of rain, and we have not yet had a warmer night, so conditions haven’t been ideal. I would be happy to give someone an update later this summer if I can get an email. By the way, it is magical to see so many of them in the fields!

62 Nancy Martin { 06.28.19 at 4:38 pm }

I live in Vermont. There are many less fireflies than I remember as a youth. A couple nights ago I watched as outside my window a few fireflies danced around. It lasted for a few minutes and then were not seen again. It would be so sad to lose these beautiful creatures and the beauty I recall the summer night skies brought.

63 Carolyn Stafford { 06.28.19 at 4:27 pm }

I live at the edge of a very tiny old town in a country setting in Northern Ohio. I have woods at my back door and around one side. Plenty of weeds. rotten logs, and leaves that don’t get moved. I’ve only lived here for a little over a year but I watched the fireflys the last few nights. Not as many as I remember in my childhood but still a good number of them. We do have solar lights in the yard and a neighbor leaves her yard light on all night that shines into the woods. One neighbor has a back light that comes on intermittently. But there are many very dark areas for them too.

64 Julie Strelow { 06.28.19 at 4:06 pm }

We live in the country and we are also by a a fairly good sized creek and bottom land, I have been enjoying lots of fire flies these past few nights. Numbers may be down from past years but not by a lot, at least by us. Love to watch them.

65 Tina Seidel { 06.28.19 at 3:52 pm }

I like in southeastern WI. and we have seen basically NO fireflies this summer. I’ve lived here forever, I’m out in the country also. I’ve never seen a summer night without fireflies until now. So sad I love watching the fields and woods that surround my house light up from them.

66 Pat Huschle { 06.28.19 at 3:50 pm }

We had lots of fireflies last year and the year before but I’ve only seen a couple this year so far. I live in southern Minnesota.

67 Amber Hyre { 06.28.19 at 3:29 pm }

I live out in the country in West Virginia and my yard and holler are full of lightening bugs. They are so beautiful that it looks like the trees are covered in Christmas lights.

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