What is Firefly Watch?
Do you have fond memories of fireflies? Does it seem like there are fewer fireflies around than when you were a kid? You might be noticing a trend — and you can help scientists track these special insects.
Firefly Watch is a project dedicated to finding out more about firefly populations and they need your help.
By submitting information about firefly sightings, you will help scientists answer important questions about fireflies and assess the need for conservation.
How are species distributed across the USA? Are their numbers dwindling over time? Are populations moving?
Why is it important?
Fireflies are special. They stand out as one of few bioluminescent critters that live on land.
“I realized that people really care about fireflies,” says Don Salvatore, Firefly Watch coordinator and science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston. “They have had wonderful experiences watching and chasing fireflies when they were young and now they want to share those experiences with their own children.”
“People today connect with nature in so few ways, that if we can nurture their love for fireflies, they may take a greater interest in preserving the natural world,” he adds.
And fireflies seem to be disappearing.
“Many people have come up to me at the museum and asked what is happening to fireflies. They used to see them all the time when they were kids but haven’t seen any in many years,” Salvatore explains.
That’s why the museum created Firefly Watch. They realized that science needs more data on fireflies and hope that with enough citizen science help they will be able to understand the cause of the decline and find a way to address the problem.
“Until that time, I hope that as many people as possible are turned on to the real magic of fireflies through Firefly Watch,” Salvatore says.
I can hardly think of a more delightful way to contribute to science than by sitting outside with family, watching fireflies, and recording observations.
And there’s more! Firefly Watch has an amazing website that will teach you all about fireflies.
“People join the project knowing next to nothing about fireflies – they fly at night and they flash. That is it,” says Salvatore.
Did you know that you can often tell the species of a firefly by its color and blinking pattern? That female fireflies usually rest on grass and signal while males fly around signalling and watching for females? Or that they have poisonous blood as protection from predators?
Firefly Watch has a great virtual habitat that teaches you about fireflies and lets you practice your identification skills.
How do you get involved?
Sign-up and find a place to watch for fireflies!
For those who want to do more, there’s a toolkit with suggestions for expanding your impact. For instance you might recruit more volunteers, give a presentation on fireflies, or lead a firefly hike.
“Most (not all) fireflies are creatures of the summer. So the best time, the only time, to do Firefly Watch is summer nights when fireflies are active,” Salvatore explains.
This is an activity for people of all ages. Over 5,000 people have participated from about 40 states and 6 provinces. Sadly for West Coast dwellers, there are no flashing fireflies West of the Rockies (but for bioluminescence fans, there are glow worms & daytime fireflies).
So get outside and start watching for fireflies, lightning bugs, or whatever name is preferred in your area!
Is there a citizen science project that you think deserves more attention? Contact Lisa Feldkamp, lfeldkamp[at]tnc.org with information about the project or leave a comment below with a link.
Opinions expressed on Cool Green Science and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nature Conservancy.