One of my anticipated events in June is the nightly, blinking light show of the fireflies. This year did not seem as spectacular as other years and it lead me to wonder. Had the wet and cold spring adversely affected the firefly? It turns out to be a more complicated issue than just adverse weather conditions. As far back as 2010, scientists from around the world knew our beloved firefly was in trouble. During the International Firefly Symposium, 13 nations documented noticeable population declines and declared an urgent need for conservation of their habitats. Just conserving habitat is not enough.
So how can we help this amazing beetle? Here are some recommendations you can implement in your own backyard.
1) TURN OUT THE LIGHTS
Fireflies communicate through their flashing lights and especially to attract mates. Human light pollution disrupts their flashes making it harder to find mates and breed. Even drawing blinds at night for inside lights will help dim your surrounding outside yard.
2) HABITAT, HABITAT AND HABITAT
Have logs and leaf litter handy. Some species of fireflies grow in rotten logs and leaf litter. Create water features. Most species of fireflies thrive around standing water and marshy areas. Ponds, streams and rivers can also provide good habitat. Even a small ground depression full of water can cause them to congregate. Fireflies eat the smaller insects, grubs and snail that live near these water landscapes.
3) NO PESTICIDES, NOT EVEN LAWN CHEMICALS
Fireflies and their larva may come into contact with other pests that have been poisoned, or they may ingest poisons from plants that have been sprayed. Remember – firefly larva eat other undesirable insects, so they are nature’s natural pest control.
4) USE NATURAL FERTILIZERS
5) DON’T OVERMOW
Fireflies mainly stay on the ground during the day, and frequently mowing may disturb populations. Consider incorporating some areas of long grasses in your landscape. Fireflies prefer to live in long grasses.
Some very simple changes to your gardening and landscape can be of great importance to this beetle. I’m hoping we will all try these recommendations so that we can continue to witness the amazing firefly display on a summer’s night.