Many nature lovers enjoy the splendor of the mountains, streams, and animals. But the synchronized firefly, even though very small, can be incredibly awe-inspiring. Some call them fireflies, others lighting bugs, whatever name you wish to use they are actually beetles. They pose no threat to humans, in fact, they have been useful in medical and scientific research. Of over 1,800 species of fireflies, we are interested the synchronous ones. There are two species of synchronous that are well known; the Photinus Carolinus and the Snappy Syncs. The Smoky Mountain National Park is well known for the Photinus Carolinus. The Snappy Syncs are well known from the Congaree National Park. Both parks have a lottery system for viewing the fireflies. There is now private property in Knox County for viewing the Snappy Syncs. Both are fascinating to view, somewhat mesmerizing. If you have been to the Smokies to see them, you are very fortunate. Even if you have, you would very much enjoy the Snappys. If you have seen the Snappys here, you would also enjoy the fireflies at Elkmont. They are two different experiences. The Photinus Carolinus in Elkmont are six or seven flashes followed by darkness of about six seconds, and they repeat the process throughout the evening. Snappy Syncs flash about 70 times per minute in unison without any periods of darkness. They look like little twinkling lights.
Photuris Hebes (Heebie Jeebies)
Another interesting species of fireflies in the darkness is the Photuris Hebes, more commonly known as Heebie Jeebies. They can be a sight to behold when they are in abundance, as they often are here at Molly Branch. They have a similar flash pattern as the Snappy Syncs but they are not synchronized. Another difference is that they appear high in the trees along the edge of the field. You will most likely be able to see them as you leave the seating area and head back to your car.
Phausis Reticulata (Blue Ghosts)
For many, one of the most fascinating nighttime firefly is the Phausis Reticulata, more commonly known as the Blue Ghosts. This is a firefly that does not flash, but rather, will stay on for 30 seconds to a minute or more. They will often float a few inches off of teh ground, making them look like little falling stars. They are not as abundant or as predictable as the synchronous fireflies, and often appear about 20 minutes after the synchronous fireflies start. You have to be patient and look for them. When found, many people enjoy their light show better than any other.
More Information On Fireflies
It should be known that almost all of the flying and flashing fireflies are the males. They are flashing in order to mate with the females on the ground, who are flashing back in response.
Fireflies are actually carnivorous beetles, and they eat snails, worms, and slugs.
There are a few requirements for fireflies to survive in a habitat:
-An area with low light at nighttime.
-An area with a thick underbrush or a thick forest floor (such as a high amount of leaves on the floor).
-An area with a lot of moisture for both the fireflies and their prey.
One recent problem that is threatening fireflies is light pollution. With human development increasing, light pollution “leaks” more and more into the area. This light pollution makes it more difficult for the females to see the males. Another problem is a loss of habitat. As forests are turned into city spaces, the fireflies lose more room that they could live in.
If you want to help, you can do so by trying to limit the light pollution around your house at night by turning off outside lights. Also, let some of your grass grow taller, which makes for a nicer habitat for the fireflies.