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Declining number of fireflies in summer season likely due to weather, development, pesticides

catching fireflies in jar in summer
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Most children and adults remember catching fireflies in a jar on warm summer nights. However, a Virginia Tech entomologist said the number of fireflies is decreasing due to climate and urban development.

“Fireflies can be seen, depending on location, starting in late April through October, but they are most active in late May and early June,” said Eric Day. “Where you see them all depends on location. Old hay fields near creeks will have normal populations, but highly manicured lawns rarely have fireflies.”

Housing and commercial development are the culprits when it comes to declining numbers of lightning bugs.

“This is why we’re seeing less and less each year. The more development there is, the less room there is for them to thrive,” said Day.

Warmer winter seasons could also be impacting the beetle’s numbers. They thrive in warm summers and cold winters.

“Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation are impacting their numbers,” said Day.

The term extinction has been discussed due to decrease in the insects, but Day said he would not use that term.

“I would say fireflies are threatened due to habitat loss, but they are not going extinct. Some are adapting in different regions.”

If you want more fireflies in your yard and to help the insect population thrive, Day recommends that homeowners stop spraying their yards with pesticides and herbicides, tolerate weeds and mow less.

“The presence of fireflies indicates a diverse habitat and doing these things is essential to ensuring future generations can enjoy the natural wonder of skies lit up by them.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.