VERIFY | Are lightning bugs in decline?

Verify: Are fireflies on the decline?

AKRON - Early July nights are rocked with fireworks, but after the smoke clears, Mother Nature starts a light show of her own.

The fireflies are out and about.

People have been talking about seeing less in our area, but is it true?

Laura McCarthy lives in Alaska where there are no lightning bugs. She looks forward to returning home to Ohio to see family and the bugs. "They remind me of childhood, catching them and putting them in a jar to look at", she said. Others, like Mark Augustine, haven't noticed a decline. "It's like the trees are full of glitter."

But experts tell a different story. Ben Pfeiffer is a firefly researcher in Texas. He runs the website firefly.org and has been studying the decline of the bioluminescent beetle for ten years.

The website is filled with information about lightning bugs, their life cycle, habitat, and decline. He cites several reasons for the decline. Ben says, "Habitat loss is the biggest factor, as more development takes place, fireflies are pushed out. Pesticides that kill a wide range of insects also taken a toll, and even light pollution." Light pollution is when bright lights from cities, street lights or houses drowns out the flash of the firefly. They use that to find a mate.

According to Ben, "No mate, no baby fireflies". 

Renata Wischt of Summit Metroparks says lightning bugs are very beneficial insects. "They hatch from an egg and live in leaf litter as a larva for one to three years. They are carnivorous, feeding on worms, snails or slugs, just about anything they can catch. They burrow through leaf litter and rotting wood, so they aerate the soil. She continued, "They pupate to their beetle form, taking wing on warm Summer nights to find a mate." After three days or so, they die. 

So, based on our experts, we can say that lighting bugs are on the decline due to habitat loss, pesticides, and light pollution. 

For more information on lightning bugs and what you can do to help in their recovery, go to www.firefly.org.

SOURCES

  • Ben Pfeiffer, firefly.org
  • Renata Wischt, Summit Metroparks

RESOURCES

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