Where Have All of Michigan’s Fireflies Gone?
Is it just me, or am I seeing fewer and fewer fireflies as I get older? And I don't think it's because I'm not paying as much attention, I genuinely don't think there seem to be as many fireflies around as there used to be.
I thought maybe I was going crazy, and maybe the ones I used to catch as a kid just SEEMED more abundant. But it turns out, no... the fireflies really are fewer, and further between.
The website FIrefly.org prides itself on conservation and research specifically for fireflies. It was started by Ben Pfeiffer in 2009 from his home in Texas.
"It was maybe 2008 when I noticed the fireflies... were disappearing. There weren't as many as I remembered when I was a kid. And then I heard a report on firefly decline on NPR Radio that confirmed it."
Since then, Ben has spent his time working to conserve the favorable habitats that fireflies live in, and help people better understand them.
Where have the Fireflies gone?
Without question, human interaction and growth have hindered firefly populations.
The best environments for fireflies are around rotting wood and forests with ponds and streams. As fireflies grow, most continue to stay in those areas with warm, humid air. That's why as kids, we would most likely see them in neighborhoods with lots of trees on warm, humid nights.
But with human growth and expansion, most of those environments have been removed. What used to be forests and open fields, are now housing developments, and other real estate.
Many of us do remember, though, catching them at our homes, in housing developments. So this isn't the only reason for a declining population. In fact, one of the worst contributors to smaller numbers of fireflies is light pollution.
"Both male and female fireflies use their flashing lights to communicate. Some species synchronize their flashes, sometimes across large groups of thousands of insects. All species speak a language of light - scientists believe they use it to attract mates, defend their territory, and warn off predators."
So we can almost assuredly confirm that the decline in firefly population is due to human interaction and growth.
What can we do to Preserve them?
There are some ways to conserve the populations, and even grow them. At night, if you live in favorable conditions, turn off your outside lights. This will lower the amount of light pollution around your home, and in the neighborhood, and allow the fireflies to better communicate with each other.
If you live around a lot of trees, and one of them falls, or you cut one down, let it rot. Maybe not RIGHT where it fell, but put it in a place where it can decompose properly, and give firefly larvae a nice habitat to grow.
Also, including water features in your landscape will help. FIreflies, as we mentioned above, love to be near water.
And maybe the best possible way to conserve firefly populations is to avoid using pesticides and lawn chemicals as much as possible... for obvious reasons.
I remember as a kid, going out on the lawn, or outside at my grandparents' farm to catch fireflies (and letting them go of course), and one day, I want my children to have the same experiences I did. They're simple memories, but ones I will certainly never forget.