Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Synchronous firefles put on magical show

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fireflies of Tennessee (

Catching fireflies on warm summer evenings was always one of my fondest childhood activities.

I've never been lucky enough, not yet anyway, to witness thousands of these enchanting insects flash all at the same time. These rare synchronous displays are magical. More about these unusual sightings in a moment.

According to scientists, it is impossible to predict exactly when lightning bugs will begin flashing each year. They love warm, humid areas and need a moist environment to survive. They thrive on all continents except Antarctica, and live at the lush margins where forest or field meet water.

They typically start appearing after the rainy season, with the peak date occurring between the third week of May to the third week in June.

"In the U.S., almost no species of fireflies are found west of Kansas—although there are also warm and humid areas to the west. Nobody is sure why this is," according to

As for 'synchronous fireflies' sightings, there are less than a handful in the United States--the three main locations are in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.  In these very specific habitats, the Photinus carolinus firefly species is responsible for putting on the synchronized displays.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fireflies of Tennessee

"No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make better comparisons," reports the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website.

Best Viewing Dates: May 17 - June 21
Peak Times: 7 - 10 p.m.
For all the information you need, click here.

Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania

"The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was once thought to be the only place where you can see synchronous fireflies in North America, and it remains the best known," reports "But in 2012, a colony of these fireflies was found in Pennsylvania’s only national forest—one that’s being heavily logged and cleared for gas drilling."

Best Viewing Dates: June 10 - June 22
Peak Times: 10 p.m.
Visit: Contact Allegheny National Forest for information

Allegheny National Park (

Congaree National Park in South Carolina

Congaree National Park is one of the least known areas for synchronous fireflies in the United States.

"For two weeks in late May and early June the fireflies in Congaree will blink in unison on evenings with the right weather conditions. The habitat of Congaree is also slightly more unique than others with synchronous fireflies in that it's more swampy and known as an old growth floodplain forest," according to

Best Viewing Dates: May 21 - June 14
Peak Times: 8 - 10 p.m.
Call: 803-776-4396, and ask for information.

"Fireflies are disappearing all over the world, and it's believed to be because of human encroachment on habitat and increased light pollution from development and traffic," states

If you live in a region of the country where fireflies make their fascinating appearance, there are a few things you can do to help fireflies make a comeback. For a wealth of information on ways to save these magical creatures click on "How to Help".

-- Julianne G. Crane

To read more articles by Julianne G. Crane go to  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

For 66 years the World's Largest Catsup Bottle has been fun RV Short Stop

A landmark attraction, the World's Largest Catsup Bottle
proudly stands watch over Collinsville, Illinois.

At 170 feet tall, it includes a 70-foot tall riveted steel bottle sitting atop 100-foot steel legs. The base of the bottle is 25 feet in diameter and the cap is 8 feet across. It has a capacity of 100,000 gallons of catsup ... or water.

Originally built as a water tower in 1949 by Caldwell Tanks of Louisville, Ky., it was falling apart by the early '90s.

In 1993, the Catsup Bottle Preservation Group began fundraising efforts to save the roadside attraction from demolition. Two years of efforts resulted in it being beautifully restored to its original appearance in June of 1995.

An excellent example of 20th century roadside Americana, the Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower was named to the National Register of Historic Places in August of 2002.

While the World's Largest Catsup Bottle attracts numerous tourists every day, the annual birthday bash and car show each summer brings in thousands of visitors.

Mark your calendars for the 17th Annual Brooks® World's Largest Catsup Bottle Festival Birthday Party and Car (Truck and Bike) Show taking place on Sunday, July 12, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Woodland Park in Collinsville, Illinois.

Directions: Collinsville, sits on Interstates 55/70 and 255, in the southwestern region of the Illinois, about 10 miles east of downtown St. Louis, Missouri.

The World's Largest Catsup Bottle water tower is located at 800 S. Morrison Ave. (IL Route 159) just south of Main Street in downtown Collinsville.

For RV Parks near Collinsville, click here.

-- Julianne G. Crane

To read more articles by Julianne G. Crane go to