Lots of folks have fond memories of a carefree childhood spent outside searching for lightning bugs. It’s almost tradition to run around at sundown in search of the tell-tale green lights to try and catch a few. But lately, something strange has been happening.
If you’ve ever thought that there aren’t as many fireflies around as there used to be, you’re not alone. All across the country, and even across the world, these little glowing bugs are disappearing fast. With every passing year there seem to be fewer and fewer lighting up the night sky and it will be a sad day indeed once they’re gone forever.
Scientists and animal researchers have documented this phenomenon, noting that as with bees, butterflies and many other insects, the primary cause of their diminishing numbers is mainly down to human activity, in particular, the reduction of their natural habitats as the human population expands, encroaching on the the cool, damp woodlands that they thrive in.
As well as a decrease in areas containing rotting wood and standing water, another big challenge they face is from light pollution. Given that they have to contend with street lighting, car lights, flood lights around houses, as well as a number of other bright, artificial light sources that light up the night sky, it’s a wonder they can see each other at all. This is bad news for fireflies as their ability to light up to signal to one another directly relates to their ability to mate. Put simply, if they can’t see each other, they’re not going to mate, meaning a reduction in their numbers and noticeably fewer fireflies with each passing summer.
Finally, the widespread overuse of pesticides also kills scores of innocent lightning bugs. Chemical pesticides can be harmful to even to human health, as well as many other forms of life, killing far more species than just the pests they were designed to eliminate. In fact, the decline in bee numbers is largely down to the use of pesticides, most of which are commonly and widely used despite their toxicity. In addition, the runoff from agricultural areas that have been treated with pesticides means that the lethal chemicals used to make them end up polluting rivers, lakes, streams, and ponds, leaving pretty much any body of water, including river basins, exposed to their effects. In the end, it’s probably better to listen to Mother Nature and just say no to using pesticides.
As bleak as the outlook for fireflies may seem, there are things you can do to help these cool little bugs out and make a positive difference. The easiest, most obvious thing you can do is to limit the amount of light pollution you pump out. Try using lights with motion detectors in the home so that they only come on when needed and always turn the lights off at night. You’ll not only save energy and money but you’ll also see more lightning bugs in the long run.
Next, give them somewhere to live. Fireflies don’t need much, just some natural vegetation like rotten logs and composting leaves. If you can stand to, just try leaving a little part of your property untouched and let it grow a little wild. Finally, if you need to exercise a little pest control, stop using chemical pesticides! Where possible, try using organic, natural solutions instead.