Written by Kay Taub
Are you seeing fewer fireflies in the summer?
Every summer I hear comments from neighbors and friends that they don’t see as many fireflies as they used to see. Can we do anything about it?
Fireflies are beetles, and what makes them so special is that they are able to convert chemical energy into light! Only the male firefly flies, and at dusk we are able to see the flashing light that the males use to attract females. Each species of fireflies (there are over 2,000 species worldwide) has its own specific flashing pattern to attract a mate. The females are wingless, plump glowworms that look completely different than the males, spend their lives on the ground, and flash back to the males to answer their call.
After mating, the female fireflies lay their eggs in undisturbed damp soil and piles of leaves. When the eggs hatch, the larvae can spend anywhere from several months to several years in the soil, as they transition from pupa to adult, feeding on snails, slugs, earthworms, and other small insects. Their prey often live in and among the leaf litter in a lawn or garden, and firefly larvae help control many garden pests, thereby helping protect your trees, shrubs, flowers, and veggies!
The decline in the firefly population is related to the conditions in our yards, which must be just right for our luminous yard resident. Instead of raking every leaf on our lawns and under our bushes and trees, leave behind leaf piles, mulch your garden beds with leaves, and mow over fallen leaves to shred them so fireflies will continue to thrive around our homes and gardens. Leaves also act as a natural mulch, providing many nutrients for our plants, and serving as a valuable habitat not only for fireflies, but also for many other insects, migrating birds, and small mammals that need leaf litter to survive and overwinter. Need ideas on how to use leaves–we’ve got Five Great Ways to use leaves here.
So relax a bit more this fall, by leaving the leaves on your lawns and gardens, and watch your yards light up next year!