Fireflies 2024 Mid Season Report

Nights are Aglow Here at Beidler Forest

Last year in 2023 I surveyed for fireflies, the first of its kind here at Beidler Forest. I went out once or twice a week at sunset to figure out the where and when for firefly activity. I learned that not only are there many different kinds of fireflies visible from the boardwalk, based on their varying flash patterns, I also learned they’re very picky about habitat, some preferring the swamp or the forest, etc. Additionally I learned that each one of them has a unique taste- Just kidding.

With only one year of data, I wasn’t sure how 2024 was going to play out. So far, it seems they’re sticking to the same schedule. Early on in April  we had fireflies that flash once every 4 seconds in the woods and others that flash once every 6 seconds in the swamp, which matches my notes from last year. Closer to May a 3rd kind of firefly appeared, one that flashes twice in two seconds and then pauses for another six. Last year at the start of May I began to see the first synchronizing fireflies, and sure enough on the first week of May for 2024 I saw the first ones emerge again, flashing rapidly compared to any other firefly out there.

For June last year we had fireflies that dominated the canopy, they didn’t synchronize but they flashed quickly too, somewhere around 21 flashes in 30 seconds (really hard to count them since they’re constantly drifting in and out of the leaves), and sure enough as this month approaches its end we’ve seen our first canopy fireflies lift up from the leaf litter and pulses in a slow, lazy path straight up towards the tops of the trees. When fireflies first emerge each evening they tend to appear a little drunk, it takes them some time to warm up.

If our fireflies stick to the same seasonal schedule each year then that gives some predictability to these otherwise secretive and mysterious insects. That’s also great for us, because we’ll have a good idea when to offer firefly programs without having to wait last minute to see if they’re active or not.

What’s new for me this year are two more flash patterns, both of them “spark,” kind of an erratic light that reminds me of a dying light bulb, that lasts for a second or so, and they repeat this every three seconds. About mid canopy there’s one that has an actual orange-colored flash (first spotted last year by my colleague Emily Davis), and the second firefly is also interesting because while it has a nearly identical spark flash pattern, it stays up high in the canopy and flashes a bright green instead. I know they’re different species because I have caught both and the green sparking ones are about twice as big as the orange sparking ones! Both occurred in the same habitat at the same time, so I’ll be keeping my eyes for them in the future. This brings the number of fireflies that frequent Beidler Forest up to potentially 13 different species!

Interest in fireflies also remains high among the public. We had about 1,500 people sign up for interest this year, and we opened tickets up to the public on April 13th. All 450 tickets sold out in 72 hours. We’re considering expanding our Firefly Nights schedule further for 2025 to accommodate more people who wish to experience the magic. Let’s hope the fireflies stick to the same schedule next year, too!

How you can help, right now