Monday, June 12, 2017 12:00am -0400

Starry Skies and Fireflies: Where are the Lightning Bugs?

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Firefly Heaven Firefly Heaven Matt Pollock

Growing up in the country as a kid, one of the things I loved most about Summer when the Sun went down were the green flickering lights that appeared like magic in my backyard. Not only were there stars in the sky, it seemed as if they came to life all around me, turning my world into an enchanted forest. These beautiful creatures are called fireflies, or as we call them in the south, lightning bugs. When is the last time you saw them? Sadly they are becoming a rarity in many places across the planet.


It is not only becoming harder to find fireflies, it can also be difficult to photograph them. A few talented astrophotographers have manage to catch these elusive insects in photos and the results are quite stunning. One thing these photographers and lightning bugs have in common, they love darkness.

IndyVisionPhotography

"Night of the Fireflies" Mark 'Indy" Kochte, IndyVision Photography

Fireflies depend on the dark of night to survive. Without darkness they can not communicate or more importantly find a mate. They thrive in forest and fields with some kind of body of water near them. They come out in the late Spring and Summer in most places, and if you live in warmer climates they make your world magical all year long.

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Brian Drourr, Brian Drourr Photography

There is more to them than just beauty, they are actually medically and scientifically useful. Located in the tail of each firefly is an abundance of two chemicals that help them light up, luciferase and luciferin; they light up in the presence of something called ATP which is found in every cell of living organisms. Sometimes cells have abnormal amounts of ATP which isn't good. Scientist have learned how to detect diseases, such as cancer and muscular dystrophy when the chemicals from fireflies are injected in to cells. They have even fitted instruments on various space craft to detect alien life with these same chemicals, how cool is that?

MattPollocke

"Incoming Storm" Matt Pollock

Sadly these amazing creatures have been disappearing all over the globe. Scientist agree that the loss of forest and wetlands as well as the horrible problem of light pollution are to blame. Every time a forest is cleared for a shopping center or neighborhood their habit grows smaller. Lightning bugs are hard to find around well lit urban areas. Chances are if it is too bright to see many stars, you won't be seeing fireflies in your area.

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"Bioluminescent Dream", Matt Pollock

It isn't all hopeless. There are a few things we can do to bring the magic back to our backyards. Turn off lights at night, the darker the better, they don't like porch lights and street lamps. Leave a few tree logs to rot in your yard, most species lay their eggs in natural decaying litter on the forest floor. Create a natural pond or other water source without chemicals in your landscape, they eat the insects that are in or near the water. Don't over mow your lawn, I know it's hard, but fireflies rest on blades of grass during the day and use them to spot mates at night.

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"Starry Skies and Fireflies", Matt Pollock

Humanity would suffer a great loss if these enchanting creatures were lost forever. Together we can bring back the twinkling stars on the ground that we all grew up with, as we also brighten the stars in the sky. 

A huge thanks to the photographers who provided the incredible images, please click the links under their names to follow their Facebook pages. For more information on fireflies visit www.firefly.org.

For more information on how to combat light pollution visit www.darksky.org. 

Read 5020 times Last modified on Monday, June 12, 2017 1:38pm -0400
Laurel Nendza

Laurel Nendza is the owner and creator of Stellar Eyes.