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 love?
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 mid-August.
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