Thursday, April 26, 2018

Synchronous fireflies put on magical show

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Fireflies of Tennessee (firefly.org)

(Updated April 26, 2018. We have been tracking the Synchronous fireflies for a number of years. These are the latest dates for 2018 events.)

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.

Lightning bugs 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 Firefly.org.

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

The once-a-year, natural phenomenon of synchronous fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is scheduled for June 7-14, 2018, in Elkmont, Tenn.

"The viewing has become such a hot ticket that the park holds a lottery system for parking passes for anyone wishing to see the flickering insect show," states an article in the Citizen Times. The 2018 lottery opens for applications Friday, April 27, at noon ET and goes until Monday, April 30, at 8 p.m. ET. The results of the lottery will be available May 9.

In 2018, "there will be 1,800 vehicle passes given out for the event, which includes 1,768 regular-parking passes (221 per day) for one passenger vehicle up to 19 feet long with a maximum of six occupants, and 32 large-vehicle parking passes (four per day) that admit one large vehicle such as an RV or mini-bus, from 19 to 30 feet long, with a maximum of 24 occupants," according to the Citizen Times.

"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: late May - early June
Peak Times: 7 - 10 p.m.
For all the information you need, click here

Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania

Allegheny National Park (firefly.org)
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, according to Firefly.org.

"In summer 2012, a rare discovery of synchronous fireflies known as Photinus carolinus were discovered in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania."

Synchronous fireflies come out very late, best times: between 10:30 p.m. until after midnight. 

The Pennsylvania Firefly Festival - June 23, 2018

 The Pennsylvania Firefly Festival celebrates the annual mating displays of over 15 different species of firefly in the Allegheny National Forest area including the synchronous firefly and the unique "Chinese Lantern" firefly along the Tionesta Creek.

The Synchronous Firefly was discovered and confirmed to be in the Allegheny National Forest in the summer of 2012.

Firefly (FireflyExpeience.Org)
The annual Firefly Festival takes place on June 23, 2018, on the grounds of the Black Caddis Ranch B & B in Kellettville, just 15 miles east of Tionesta on Route 666.  Live music goes from 12:30 to 9:15 p.m.

Due to the growing crowds at the festival, organizers are asking attendees to register if they want a spot in the firefly walks the night of the festival. They are still free, but registering will help to organize the crowds and give you the best firefly experience possible.

For complete festival and viewing information click here.

Black Caddis Ranch B & B
13558 Route 666, Tionesta, Pa 16353
Call: (814) 230-2035.
 Where to stay?  Click here for camping and lodging in the area.

Congaree National Park in South Carolina

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

While the exact dates are unknown, synchronized blinking generally starts around the middle of May. and can occur through late June 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 Firefly.org.

"The Harry Hampton Visitor Center will be open extended hours from Fri., May 11 to Sun., May 20, 2018. During that time, the Visitor Center will be open till 10 p.m. each night and park staff and volunteers will be offering special programs. "

Best Viewing Dates: mid-May - Mid-June
Peak Times: 8 - 10 p.m.
Call: 803-776-4396, and ask for information.
Phone: (803) 776-4396

Help Fireflies make a comeback

"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 Firefly.org.

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 on the RV lifestyle, go to RVWheelLife.com

Photos: Source Firefly.org.

##RVT795; ##RVT843 

3 comments:

  1. Julianne, I witnessed this phenomena two years ago at the upper loop in Promised Land SP campground in Pennsylvania. I hadn't heard anything previously about this amazing feat.
    Carl G.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Seeing the Synchronous Fireflies are at the top of my Dance Card.

    ReplyDelete