Save America’s Wildlife

Summer is here. Can you find the fireflies?

What you can do to protect fireflies and catch nature’s light show

Fireflies in the forest
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There is something mesmerizing about fireflies. When my children were young, we would sit in our tiny backyard in Washington, DC, at dusk to watch the twinkling lights appear. The slow flying critters were so plentiful, they would land on us, twinkling on our heads and hands before flying off to find a mate more their size.

This year, my teenage kids and I watched and waited, but what was once a dazzling show was just a few brave blips. Where have they all gone, we wondered? 

From Florida to New York, Michigan, Maryland and Texas, the U.S. has over 100 species of firefly. Sadly one third of these are threatened with extinction according to a recent study. The nation’s most endangered, the Bethany Beach firefly, is hanging on just minutes from DC. 

To understand why their populations are plummeting, it is important to know about their lifecycle. Fireflies spend most of their lives as larvae, foraging in moist soil for slugs, worms and other yummy firefly food. From golf courses, to parking lots and patios, this habitat is being steadily lost. 

Pollinators too

In addition to their magical evening shows and their appetite for garden pests, fireflies are also important pollinators. As adults, they feed on pollen and nectar and benefit many flowering plants.  

8 Things You Can Do 

  1. Turn off the lights. Lights at night confuse fireflies, making it hard for them to find mates. 
  2. Create a friendly garden with native plants, trees, shrubs and grasses.
  3. Protect marshes and wetlands. Fireflies love moist, humid areas. 
  4. Avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Anything that will kill insects will kill fireflies. 
  5. Cut down on mowing. Fireflies stay on the ground during the day and mowing can disturb them. 
  6. Rake less. Leaf litter, such as grubs and slugs, is great food.  
  7. Think twice before paving your outdoor space
  8. Finally, increase awareness of fireflies. Host a firefly party and enjoy the show with friends and a cocktail. 

We’ve got work to do, but together we can help fireflies return to our neighborhoods. 


Susan Holmes

Former Director, Save America’s Wildlife Campaign, Environment America

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