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“Fireflies Display Left Us Speechless”

Yesterday’s USA Today headline read “See the Synchronous Fireflies Smoky Mountains Display that Left Us Speechless” .  https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/news/2019/06/04/synchronous-fireflies-great-smoky-mountains-tennessee-spectacle/1342743001/  Are you familiar with this amazing display?  How do these insects know how to flash together?  Is it some sort of count led by a leader?  Are they responding to some sort of scent?  The real answer is their search for a mate.  

Seeing the display of the synchronous fireflies is truly a bucklet list item for many.

The display lights up the forest in a magical way.

We owe the show to the Photinus Carolinus, commonly known as the Synchronous Firefly and the Phausis Reticulata, the Blue Ghost Firefly.  For about three weeks every year these species of fireflies unique to this area emerge for an annual mating ritual.  This ritual usually takes place in late May or early June.  National Park scientists use air and soil temperatures to predict the timing of each year’s mating season.  The males use their lights to dance for the females.  The females respond with a brief double-flash.  What makes this display so unique is that the males shine their lights in a synchronized display, followed by a synchronized period of darkness which allow the females to shine their lights.

Fireflies Display Lottery

This natural phenomenon has become so popular that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park conducts an annual lottery to determine which visitors are allowed in the park for the show.  Only about 1,800 visitors are admitted each year, coming from all over the world.  The lottery provides parking passes and shuttle service for the Elkmont area.  The lottery typically is announced in April each year.  

Some of our guests were fortunate enough to see the display at Elkmont last evening.  One guest described the experience as magical.  “It felt like the stars were coming down to light the forest!”

Both species of firefly are common in Southern Appalachia.  So if you are in this area in the month of June, stay outside a bit later.  When it is good and dark you might be surprised at the light show you see!