18 Fireflies in the Garden

By Linda Wiggen Kraft, Healthy Planet Green & Growing Editor
Fireflies and lightning bugs are two common names for a special kind of beetle that fills our summer evenings with their magic of bioluminescence. Their scientific name is lampyridae. One of the most special times of summer is when fireflies start their evening light show. Flickers of light fly through the air blinking on and off as the male firefly looks for a mate. The females who stay on the ground or in bushes respond with their flickering lights to attract the males. After mating, the female lays about 500 eggs in damp ground. In about a month the eggs hatch into larvae that live from one to three years. Eggs and larvae, called glowworms, are also bioluminescent and can be seen in the dark.

Few fireflies live west of Kansas, they live mostly east of that longitude in all states of the U.S. They thrive in heat and humidity and need dampness for the eggs and larvae to survive. In most areas fireflies show their light in different rhythms so there is random flickering. In a few areas of the United States, fireflies light up in synchronized on and off flickering. These synchronized species can be found in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Fireflies are declining due mainly to loss of habitat and pesticide use. We as gardeners can create homes for fireflies and other insects that are necessary in our world. Things we can do in our own backyards to attract and nurture fireflies are: 1) They need darkness for their flickering lights to be seen by other fireflies. Turn off lights in the landscape when fireflies are present. If there is too much light, fireflies will leave. 2) Provide a damp area for the eggs and larvae where moist decaying matter provides a home to slugs, snails and worms, which the larvae eat. A rain garden will provide this ideal environment. 3) Leave some leaf debris so the eggs and larvae can develop. 4) During the day fireflies like to hang out in tall grass, keep some areas long. 5) And most importantly do not use pesticides. Pesticides that harm fireflies include those that are sprayed on foliage, which targets adults. The larvae are grubs that live underground. Using pesticides that target grubs destroys them. It is best to not use pesticides, toxic or organic.

By providing a welcoming habitat, fireflies will continue to share their magic in our hot and humid summers. Let’s keep their lights on.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer of holistic/organic gardens. She is an artist and creativity workshop leader. Her ceramic jewelry and pottery are available online. Check her website for details. Find out more, subscribe to her blog and Instagram at www.CreativityForTheSoul.com, Call her at 314 504-4266.