I grew up calling them lightning bugs, but they’re synonymous with fireflies. I realized last night that living in the south all my life and seeing these critters year after year has made me take them for granted. I almost don’t notice them anymore and that’s just a crying shame. Thankfully, I was reawakened to their “buggy glory” last night.
When I was a child, the neighborhood kids would gather at dusk with jars in hand and joyously run around catching lightning bugs. My mother always had a steady supply of both tall and short Peanut Butter jars with metal lids in a lower cabinet.
We’d grab the jars and use an ice pick and a hammer to punch holes in the lids. After getting a jar full of lightning bugs, we’d watch them for a while or take them in the house to watch their spectacular little light show. I was always amazed and curious at how their glow always seemed to go from yellow to a more greenish hue as the night went on. We would always release the bugs from our jars when we were done watching them although we never seemed to tire of them.
Last night, hubby and I had dinner with his parents, and then went to their house for a visit. It had just turned dark when we arrived at their house. As we exited our vehicle, my hubby and father-in-law entered the garage for some lawn mower talk. My mother-in-law and I stood on the driveway near their patio where she asked me if I had noticed the abundance of lightning bugs this year and had I ever seen so many so late in the summer? She commented that in all her eighty something years, that she could never recall a year of seeing so many or remembering them being so plentiful (or even being still around) in September. As much as I hated to admit it, I told her the truth—that I had not even noticed them this year. Standing there watching them with her, I felt ashamed that I had grown so accustomed to them, that I had taken them for granted and had quit even noticing their beauty. We stood on the driveway for several minutes, peering down into the dark abyss of their large backyard and I couldn’t believe the brilliance of their flashes! There seemed to be thousands and thousands of lightning bugs. It was fabulous!! And my mother-in-law was right– I could not recall seeing so many this late in the summer. As far back as I could remember, lightning bugs always seem to peak from May to July, then gradually disappeared. I had to agree that to see so many here in the first week of September was a little unusual. I somehow felt reawakened standing there watching nature’s light show. It was better than any man-made fireworks show and it was all from our magnificent creator.
I was saddened to read an article not too long ago that fireflies are on the decrease due to things like habitat destruction (paving over areas where their larva have been deposited in the ground), pesticide use, and light pollution. I also read that there are many things that determine when they peak in a particular year. Things like temperature, soil moisture, etc. all make a difference. By the looks of things last night, conditions must have been ideal this year.
There’s a species of synchronous fireflies in Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where thousands of tourists travel to see every year (it’s the only place they’re found). I’d like to try to get there to see that in the near future. Here’s a video about the event with some interesting info. about these amazing little beetles. Enjoy!