Fireflies, also known as lightning bugs or lightning lanterns, are small flying insects that come to light at night! They are very common in the United States and typically arrive in your backyard during summer. However, when to expect fireflies depends on the region. For example, southern warmer states can have long firefly seasons that extend through November. Fireflies also have a short lifespan. They only live for about two months. For their eggs to survive, they need warmth and humidity.
Follow along to learn more about when to expect fireflies in your area!
Fireflies in the North
In the world, there are about 2,000 firefly species. About 150 firefly species live in North America. It’s no surprise these bright flying insects spend time in northern states. You can find these beetles in woods, meadows, and gardens. They like open space and usually, you can see hundreds flying together at night in one spot. In the north, there aren’t many fireflies and they don’t spend a lot of time there either. Fireflies are more common along the East Coast and the South. The date also varies depending on the weather, however, in the north, you can see these lighting bugs starting as early as the beginning of May.
In New York, for example, fireflies emerge between the third week of May and the third week of June. In Minnesota, fireflies typically show themselves in June through August, hoping to find a mate. In this state, there are at least 7 species. A place where you may see yellow lights at night from the fireflies in Minnesota is Baylor Regional Park.
Fireflies in the South
Southern states in the U.S. provide some of the best conditions for fireflies. They are generally hot and humid, which is perfect for firefly eggs. Many southern states also don’t experience very cold or below-freezing temperatures, meaning firefly season lasts longer. But when does firefly season begin in the southern parts of the U.S.?
Although many firefly species emerge in the summer, some firefly species in Florida light up the sky beginning in February. You can see warm blue and yellow lights in clear forests and state parks. For example, one of the best places to see fireflies in Florida is the Blue Spring State Park.
Although fireflies in Florida are impressive, Texas has one of the longest firefly seasons in the nation. These lightning bugs make a forest or meadow look enchanted sometimes as late as November.
Fireflies in the East
Technically, states on the East Coast also belong to the North and South. Fireflies on the East Coast are common, especially near woodlands. Florida, for instance, is considered part of the East Coast and a Southern state.
Fireflies in the east range. In Connecticut, these lightning beetles are easy to spot during late June and early July. However, you can spot them as early as May depending on the weather. Finding fireflies in Connecticut is easier than you’d think. They are common in open backyards and highway medians.
In South Carolina, you can also see many fireflies starting in May. A popular spot to find fireflies in South Carolina is Congaree National Park from May through June.
Fireflies in the West
It can be hard to know when to expect fireflies in the western part of the United States. Many states in the West experience cooler temperatures. It’s harder to find fireflies in the West, but they are there! You can find these glowing beetles in Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. Interestingly, western species are active during the day, which may explain why they are so rare to see. Did you know some firefly species also don’t light up? The firefly species in the West likely communicate using pheromones instead of light signals.
The Best Places to See Fireflies in the United States
Although we’ve listed some places to find fireflies by region, here are some top firefly-viewing destinations in the country. One of the most popular firefly viewing spots in the United States is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here you can see about 19 firefly species lighting up the sky in hopes of landing a mate.
Another fantastic place to view fireflies in the country is the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Within this forest, you can find the rare, but fascinating blue ghost firefly. Instead of emitting a yellow light, they glow dark blue!
The state of Georgia also has many fireflies. They are most common in the northern mountains. You don’t have to drive too far away from the city either to view these beautiful glowing beetles. For example, right outside of Atlanta is the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, where you can see fireflies during early summer.
For What Purpose Do Fireflies Light Up?
Fireflies are able to light up due to a process called bioluminescence. These amazing bugs have light-emitting organs on their abdomens. Two compounds aid in the ability to light up–Luciferin, a light-emitting molecule, and luciferase, an enzyme. When oxygen hits these organs, the luciferin reacts with the luciferase, creating a chemical reaction that produces light. The bioluminescence is one of the most efficient types of light sources in the world.
What’s the purpose of their ability to light up? It’s firstly a method of communicating between fireflies. They each have their own unique flashing pattern, which aids them in finding mates. If a male flashes a certain pattern, the female will respond with her own pattern, so that they can locate each other. This lighted communication also serves as a warning to other insects or animals that may prey on them, as fireflies have toxins that are dangerous to some predators while tasting terrible to others. Their flashes are telling these predators to stay away.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © glebantiy/Shutterstock.com
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