May 11, 2018

Fireflies, Lightning Bugs

I've been enamored with fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, since the first time I saw them while living in Louisiana, and I've been lucky to have them in my yard each year since moving to central Texas 10 years ago.
We all know about the fascinating light fireflies produce, but did you also know they're beneficial insects?

Fun facts about fireflies

  • Fireflies aren't actually flies. They're beetles, which means their larvae are grubs.
  • Firefly larvae are predatory. They live in/on the ground and eat snails, slugs, and the larvae of other insects.
  • Since firefly larvae live so close to the ground they are especially susceptible to lawn pesticides, and it's suspected that synthetic lawn fertilizers may also be harmful to them.
  • It takes a year for fireflies to complete their life cycle from egg to larvae to adult, and ground moisture from rain is an important factor in their survival to adulthood. 
  • Unlike most beetles, adult fireflies have a diet similar to that of a honeybee.
  • Adult fireflies are often collateral damage in mosquito abatement programs, since they're airborne in the late evening, and since they emerge in late spring when mosquito populations start to explode.

How to increase the firefly population in your yard

  • Tall grass on the edge of thickly vegetated areas is a favorite place for fireflies to hang out, so leave some areas on your property "wild", if that's an option, with underbrush untrimmed and grass unmowed.
  • Avoid applying pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to the lawn.
  • If you're wearing mosquito repellent, be especially careful when handling fireflies, so you don't expose them to the chemicals on your skin. 
  • If you have fireflies in your yard, participate in Firefly Watch, a citizen science project dedicated to tracking the distribution and fate of these fascinating creatures.

Do you have a gardening question?  You can ask in the comments below, or by e-mail.  I'll pick my favorite questions to feature on this page.  Follow me on Facebook or Instagram for more helpful gardening tips, tricks, and how-to's.


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