She needs not nourishment but their essence—a chemical toxin that renders her own flesh unsavory to predators such as birds and spiders. Just remember that if you catch fireflies, you can keep them in a jar (with a lid punched to let in air and a moistened paper towel on the bottom) for only a day or two before you need to set them free. The Early Voting Numbers in Texas Are Bonkers. It can be used to detect levels of ATP in cells, for example. So Why Does the National Park Service Want to Defund It? Despite their name, only some species produce adults that glow. “Firefly diversity is only as good as firefly habitat, so if you’ve got low-quality habitat, you’ve got low-quality diversity,” Pfeiffer says. In addition to chemicals do bug zappers play a significant role in their demise? It feels like a regression in some ways.”. If you stand still and watch carefully, you just might see a few! Smithsonian Institution. How about a constellation? Don't have an account? Fireflies can’t function in such illuminated areas. “People tend to think there is only one. Fireflies hibernate over winter during the larval stage, some species for several years. But because lightning bugs are known to exist and even flourish in areas where some or all of those factors are at play, each theory, on its own, is insufficient. The stories you want, in one weekly newsletter. Vote Now! Subscribe or link your existing subscription. We have them in Florida, but only noticeably for a few weeks in early spring, when I can look into my (heavily wooded and bounded by a creek) back yard and see dozens. Photographs From the Last Quiet Places on Earth. Enter your email below to send a password reset email. While the reports that you do hear about them tend toward the grim, Pfeiffer doesn’t believe that any of Texas’s astounding varieties of firefly species are on the verge of outright extinction; in fact, populations in Austin and the entire Central Texas area have been on the upswing in recent years. Each species has its own pattern of light flashing. Industrialization or all the people who spray massive amounts of poison on their yards? And you’ve got the prairies, and South Texas, which blends with Mexico, so you’ve got all these species that don’t occur anywhere else in the country. This is the ideal time of year to find fireflies. “Here you have to go where the habitat is still relatively pristine,” is all he will say. A New Braunfels expert says they’re still out there if you know where to look. Otherwise, try again or reset your password. Fireflies much prefer warm, humid conditions, and conditions in the West aren’t quite right. Bugs tend to be cyclical. Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. Many species forgo eating during this last very horny phase of their life; a notable exception is the female of the Photuris genera of fireflies. Keep up-to-date on: © 2020 Smithsonian Magazine. Theories abound as to why why American firefly populations have been in decline in recent decades; mosquito sprays, ravenous fire ants, and light pollution are three possibilities as to why nights in central Houston and the Big D no longer flicker like they once did. There are about 2,000 species of fireflies worldwide, with over 150 species in the U.S. and Canada. In a state with more than its share of biting, stinging, and creeping and crawling insects and arachnids with little or no charm to any but their own species, fireflies (or lightning bugs as they are variously known here) have long enjoyed a special place in our hearts, that rarest of varmints—a charismatic insect. They don’t eat snails, though—they eat fireflies of other genera. Vous pouvez modifier vos choix à tout moment dans vos paramètres de vie privée. Cookie Policy Go out to look for fireflies soon after sunset. While in college he started an Internet company that he sold for a tidy profit and carried on in tech, consulting, and start-ups, with fireflies only a pleasant childhood memory when they crossed his mind at all. The greatest variety of fireflies lies to the west of Houston and Dallas and the Davy Crockett and Sam Houston national forests, where in terms of eco-regions, the Deep South peters out and the American West begins, he says. Advertising Notice My father grew up in the Houston enclave of West University Place in the forties and fifties and recalls seeing plenty of them in his backyard in those days. Pfeiffer adds that in some cases, we are simply blind to what’s out there. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. So that makes Texas a really, really cool place to study. “Industrialization hasn’t been kind to the flying luminescent beetles.”. You might find some other [types] hidden away in pocket parks and stuff like that, and the hurricanes have helped fireflies out a lot—kinda cleaned out some areas and let them repopulate in some areas because it might have been too dry or overpopulated with people.”. Pfeiffer points out the case of the synchronous firefly (Photinus carolinus) of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as an example of what can happen when lightning bug mania runs amok.