Summer is here, along with the opportunity the season presents for enjoying many outdoor activities. Enjoy the following article written by Allen Yow, a member of the Morgan County Audubon Society and a member of the Illinois Audubon Society Board of Directors.
During the past couple of summers, my family has enjoyed the free light show put on by several species of fireflies residing in our yard and in our neighbors’ yards.
Many people during the course of the past year have described to me their observations of firefly flash patterns and have asked what they can do to attract more fireflies to their yards. Since the first fireflies of the season will appear in mid-May, I thought I would share some information and ideas on how you can make your yards more inviting and welcoming to these amazing insects.
First, allow a portion of your yard to be “wild.” Fireflies need moist soil to thrive and they prefer undisturbed grassy areas with ground cover. Mowing less often not only will save you time and expense, but it also will help the soil retain moisture, which is essential for firefly eggs and larvae. By allowing leaf litter and woody debris to accumulate in a portion of your yard, you can create habitat and cover for firefly eggs, larvae and adults.
Second, reduce the amount of chemicals you put on your yard. Pesticides, especially broad-spectrum pesticides, kill fireflies and the prey insects firefly larvae eat. Consider using horticultural oils or insecticidal bacteria on at least part of your lawn and garden to kill only target pests.
Finally, reduce the use of outdoor lights. Outdoor lights threaten fireflies because their mating flashes easily are drowned out by artificial illumination and male fireflies tend to avoid searching for mates in areas with bright lighting. You can assist fireflies by shielding light fixtures to direct the light downward and use the lowest wattage light bulbs possible. Turning off outdoor lights when not needed is best and also will save you money.
Most adult fireflies are weak fliers and do not travel far from where they are hatched. As a result, if a population is established in your yard it likely will remain there year after year, providing you and your family many spectacular summer evenings to come.
To learn more about how you can help protect and attract these flashing natural treasures, visit Firefly Watch.