It was just starting to get dark outside. I don’t typically go out at this time of day, but Hannah was pacing and I thought maybe she needed a break. As I stepped into the yard, I saw them – fireflies! I could see a new one every few seconds, the air was thick with them. Hannah wasn’t quite sure what to make of the flashes of light, though I’m sure she’s seen them before. She never did do anything while she was out there, but we both enjoyed watching them. It reminded me of being a kid, how my brother and sisters and I used to go out and catch fireflies and put them in a jar so we could watch them glow. It seemed almost like magic as we watched, mesmerized by their intermittent glowing.
I did a little research on fireflies and learned that the population is diminishing. Scientists aren’t sure if it’s because their habitat is being destroyed, if it’s the increased boat traffic and pollution in the waterways where they live, or if there is too much light at night that prevents them from being able to attract each other and mate.
Fireflies aren’t just useful for keeping kids entertained in the summer – they are also considered beneficial insects. They don’t bite or carry diseases and their larvae feed on other insect larvae, slugs, snails, and other garden pests. They also contain two chemicals that are being used in research to cure cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and cystic fibrosis.
If you’d like to see more fireflies where you live, turn off exterior lights and close your blinds after dark. Firefly larvae like rotting wood and the debris from trees. Consider keeping a small pile of wood to create a habitat for them. If you’re in an area with a stream, pond, or marsh, it’s especially important to make sure they have dark and quiet to live their firefly lives.
Catching fireflies is a rite of passage, at least where I grew up in Michigan. I’m sure it’s the same here in Tennessee and in other states and countries where they are native. There’s a little stream that runs behind my house. I’m going to make sure there’s some rotting wood back there and I’m going to keep the lights low and the blinds drawn when it starts getting dark. I want my grandkids to be able to experience the same sense of wonder that I did watching fireflies in a jar. Let’s make sure we do what we can to make that happen!