When the Littles were here, they spent many happy hours
outside in the dark. Barefoot and covered with the garden dirt of the day, they
ran happily through the grass chasing fireflies. Just being outside in the dark
is definitely an adventure for children, but add fireflies to the equation and
life is magical. Of course, chasing after fireflies is so fun, but catching
them is quite another adventure. Faith and Noah ran over to me every time they
caught a firefly! As all children do, they put them in small containers after I
poked holes in the lids. I did give instructions to my Littles that we enjoy
and love them and look at them until it was time for bed, and then off with the
lids and let them go back into the night where they belong.
Any one of us reading this knows the magic of fireflies. I
hope you still feel that magic! I know I do. I love sitting in the garden watching
the light show as Venus continues her show from the night sky. What is not to
However, I think we are all aware that we are noticing less
and less in the summer gardens. What are some of the causes of the diminishing
numbers of fireflies? Dr. Casey Sciar, director of The Arboretum at Penn State
gives us a few ideas. “The finger is pointed at light pollution,” he says, but
he goes on to say, “But it is also pointed at our use of pesticides.” Of
course, he goes on to say that cutting down of woodlands and marsh areas are to
blame as well. “We do need to pay attention to preservation and conservation
for our natural resources.”
It is to this length that the Firefly Watch Project has
gone into effect. So, let me explain. I was introduced to this project about a
month ago, and I have been participating ever since. It is simple, really, and
we all can do it! Find a spot in your yard or your neighborhood or even a park
that you like to visit. The important thing for you to do is to choose this same
location through the length of the firefly season which usually lasts until
Once you find your favorite firefly location, visit it once
a week and make observations and notice the following details: habitat type,
temperature, precipitation, wind, cloud cover, artificial light. Next, notice
the flash patterns over the course of ten minutes in three ten second periods.
If you want to take this a step further, you an submit your observations so
that all of the data collected will be able to help scientists. This data goes
to Mass Audubon Firefly Watch.
It is fine if you just want to make your own observations
without sending in the data. I have been sending mine in for the past few weeks
because I find it very interesting, and it helps me pay attention to the
fireflies in my own garden. This is quite a fun project and perhaps you would
like to do this with a friend or neighbor…or a child or grandchild to help them
understand our natural world. While you are sharing this with children, there
are many wonderful books out there on the subject of fireflies. One of my very
favorite books was written by a Fort Wayne author, Helen Frost. She and Rick
Lieder (photographer) have produced a gorgeous book, Among a Thousand Fireflies. This is one of many in my own library.
There are lots more as well to share with your children!
We live in a magical world. Last night a firefly got caught
on my screen door. I watched it for a long time wondering if I needed to rescue
the firefly. Time stood still for me as I watched the flashing pattern on my
door. I don’t know how long I watched, but eventually the firefly moved back
into the dark of my backyard! Even though I do not collect them in jars
anymore, I am enchanted by them every summer’s night. I hope you do too.
Let me know how your firefly observations go, I would love to
hear where you are doing this and who is sharing this activity. Don’t forget to
look up at the new moon as you sit in your garden!
Jacqueline Woodson once wrote,
“Make a wish, Make a good one. Firefly wishes always come true!
Here is the Audubon website: https://www.massaudubon.org/programs-events/community-science/firefly-watch