By Julianne G. Crane
I’ve been tracking synchronous fireflies activity for a number of years. Here are the latest dates for 2021 public viewings.
Catching fireflies on warm summer evenings is one of my fondest childhood memories. While I’ve not been lucky enough to sit among thousands of enchanting creatures flashing in unison – it’s on my Bucket List. (More about these unusual sightings in a moment.)
Lightning bugs love warm, humid areas and need a moist environment to survive. They thrive on all continents except Antarctica, and live at the lush margins where forest or field meet water. They typically start appearing after the spring rainy season, with the peak dates occurring between the third week of May to the third week in June.
Synchronous Fireflies are magical
As for magical synchronous fireflies sightings, there are less than a handful in the United States – the three main locations are in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. In these very specific habitats, the Photinus carolinus firefly species is responsible for putting on the awe-inspiring display of synchronous flashing while searching for a mate.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – June 1-8
The once-a-year, natural phenomenon of synchronous fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open to the public June 1-8, in Elkmont, Tenn.
These flickering insect shows are always hot ticket items. Due to COVID-19, viewing opportunities are being modified to provide for enhanced visitor and employee safety. To obtain a vehicle pass, visitors must first enter a lottery. To enter, go to Recreation.gov – Firefly Event page between April 30 and Monday, May 3, 11:39 p.m. A total of 800 vehicle passes (about half the number pre-pandemic), 100 passes per night, will be issued. Results of the lottery will be available by Friday, May 7.
“No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make better comparisons,” reports the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website.
Best Viewing Dates: Late May – early June
Peak Times: 7 – 10 p.m.
For all the information you need, click here.
Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania – June
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was once thought to be the only place where you can see synchronous fireflies in North America, and it still remains the best known, according to Firefly.org. About a decade ago, a rare discovery of synchronous fireflies was discovered in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Firefly Festival – June 25-26
The Pennsylvania Firefly Festival (PAFF) celebrates the annual mating displays of more than 15 different species of fireflies. In the Allegheny National Forest area, this includes the synchronous fireflies and the unique “Chinese Lantern” firefly along the Tionesta Creek.
The 9th annual Firefly Festival takes place on June 25-26, 2021, on the grounds of the Black Caddis Ranch B & B in Kellettville, just 15 miles east of Tionesta on Route 666.
Required registration opens Saturday, May 1, at 9 a.m. EDST, for the two 2021 events. Price is $30 a person. The event goes from 7 p.m. until 12-midnight. Music, Nature Exhibits, Firefly Experts, Presentations and Firefly Tours are all included.
To register, click on the night of your choice. All sales are final.
Due to growing crowds at the festival, organizers are asking attendees to register if they want a spot in the firefly walks. The walks are still free, but registering helps to organize the crowds and give the best firefly experience possible, say organizers. For complete festival and viewing information click here.
2021 Glow & Know Campouts in Western Pennsylvania
In addition to the festival, there are three overnight firefly immersion campouts in June. Each location offers unique habitats and program activity choices. For campouts, select one of the following dates and locations.
- Wednesday, June 9, Scarlett Knob Campground, Fayette Co.
- Saturday, June 19, Camp Lutherlyn, Butler Co.
- Wednesday, June 23, Kellettville Campground, Forest Co.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina – May
South Carolina’s Congaree National Park is not famous for synchronous fireflies in the United States.
“The habitat of Congaree is also slightly more unique than others with synchronous fireflies in that it’s more swampy and known as an old growth floodplain forest,” according to Firefly.org.
Every year, Congaree National Park hosts synchronous fireflies for approximately two weeks between mid-May and mid-June. Firefly viewing tickets were a lottery system this year. The lottery closed on April 19. Therefore no passes are available. For the latest up-to-date information click here.
For information on the scientific research of fireflies at Congaree National Park, be sure to visit the Old Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center’s fireflies page.
Help Fireflies make a comeback
“Fireflies are disappearing all over the world, and it’s believed to be because of human encroachment on habitat and increased light pollution from development and traffic,” states Firefly.org.
If you live in a region of the country where fireflies make their fascinating appearance, there are a few things you can do to help fireflies make a comeback. For a wealth of information on ways to save these magical creatures click on “How to Help”.