HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — Fireflies. Lightning bugs. Depending on where you live, they go by many names.
We used to see them all the time, but now we don’t.
According to a recent study, nearly 1 in 3 different firefly species in the United States and Canada might be threatened with extinction and soon could be blinking out of existence.
In a recent comprehensive assessment by PLOS, the Public Library of Science, firefly experts estimate that at least 14% of North American firefly species are threatened; classified as critically endangered or endangered.
Scientists at PLOS say their numbers are dwindling due to climate change and the use of pesticides.
I spoke with an entomologist at Virginia Tech who tells me that another big issue is the loss of their habitat.
“What you’re seeing there is overall this kind of slow kind of a movement of more and more houses, more and more construction, and that reduces habitat,” said Eric Day, the Insect Identification Lab Manager at Virginia Tech.
“So, the preferred place is like lowland wetland areas, fields next to streams, those your classic places to go look for fireflies.”
Day says another major issue is light pollution. Too much light interferes with the fireflies’ mating rituals, making it harder for them to see each other.
It could also trick them into thinking it’s daytime.
“Anything you can do to reduce outside lighting or lights visible outside, this includes windows, that’s going to increase the number of fireflies in your area,” said Day.
And here’s a fun fact-lightning bugs are actually beetles!
There are about 10 species of fireflies in Virginia and each of them is differentiated by their flash patterns.
So again, the best ways to help fireflies thrive in our area is to avoid using pesticides and shut off any lights you’re not using or consider using timed lighting.