Fireflies are more than just insects. They’re a majestic, unforgettable part of late spring. and one of the fondest memories many of us have of our childhoods.
Altogether, there are roughly 2,000 firefly species around the world, with 200 species recorded in the United States.
Each spring from mid-to-late May to mid-to-late June, fireflies light up the night’s sky with an incredible display of brilliant yellow lights, sometimes in synchronous fashion.
This is a scene that was once common from coast-to-coast and sea to shining sea, but firefly populations have been dwindling in recent years, in large part due to loss of habitat, lawn chemicals and pesticides, and for other reasons.
The good news is that attracting fireflies to your yard is highly possible by creating the right environment for them, and it’s something we can all do to help protect them and support their numbers while we still can.
Adult Fireflies Only Live for a Few Weeks
Much like honeybees, the lifespan of an adult firefly is a short but memorable one.
Ben Pfeiffer, a master naturalist and founder of firefly.org, said he began to notice certain populations of fireflies were disappearing near his home in south Texas back in 2008.
Firefly diversity has also dropped off precipitously, Pfeiffer said, quite possibly due to the loss of native plant habitats for them to find shelter and breed in.
“It’s not just about a decline in terms of numbers. There’s a whole lot less firefly diversity than there used to be,” Pfeiffer said.
“Some of the species are habitat-specific and when that habitat is gone, the species can be lost.”
Researchers also suspect light population is to blame according to recent research shared in 2019.
Fireflies need clear skies to flash their signals for mates, drive away predators, and more.
“They flash to signal for mates. Scientists believe they may flash to drive away predators, claim territory, and communicate with others of their species as well — although the finer points of their language have never been studied extensively,” according to firefly.com.
“One thing’s for sure, though: without those flashing lights, there could be no fireflies.”
Support the Firefly Population and Attract More Fireflies to Your YardWith this information in mind, there are simple things you can do to attract more fireflies to your yard this spring and early summer.
–Turn off exterior lights: Pfeiffer’s website suggests doing this during the May and June months so fireflies have a greater ability to signal to each other and scare off predators
-Avoid or limit yard chemicals: Pesticides and lawn chemicals can harm firefly larvae while also killing the slugs, snails and worms these “lightning bugs” eat.
-Let your grass grow: Longer blades of grass give fireflies more cover to hide from predators, while also giving females a better vantage point at night to search for male mates and their lights.
-Add a water feature: Fireflies need water to survive, whether it’s “man-made ponds, small depressions in the yard, or standing water,” Pfeiffer said.
Adding a simple water feature like the one below is an excellent way to give fireflies the consistent water source they need.
-Start an extra wood pile: Fireflies lay their eggs in rotten logs and other brush on the forest floor. Add a wood pile to your yard and fireflies will have a place to lay eggs and find food like grubs, snails or slugs.
Plant These Plants in Your Yard to Attract Fireflies
The top plants for attracting fireflies vary by region, but there are certain types that have been recommended. These plants are especially important during the May and June months according to Firefly.org, which has compiled a list of the best plants for fireflies.
The top firefly attracting plants by category include:
Trees and Woody Plants
-Inland sea oats
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