7 Ways to Protect Fireflies

Compared to photographing them, catching fireflies is about the easiest thing to do. And in the summertime, many people love to run around a field with mason jar in hand, to get closer to these fascinating insects. If you want to catch fireflies, make sure your jar has pierced holes, so the fireflies can breathe, and be sure to release them within a day or two. Click here for more tips on safely catching fireflies.

In the northeastern part of the United States, firefly season is at its peak in the weeks after July 4. But if you’ve noticed fewer tiny twinkling bugs in your backyard this summer, that might be because there’s evidence to show that firefly populations are on the decline. But do not despair. Firefly.org has outlined a few ways that you can help protect fireflies. And the Gardenista editors are republishing some of them here in hopes that our fellow gardeners can help spread the word.

Photographs by Erin Boyle.

Seven things you can do to protect fireflies:

1. Turn off outdoor lights: Fireflies use bioluminescence to communicate and attract mates. There’s evidence that light pollution from humans interferes, making it harder for fireflies to mate and breed.

2. Let logs and natural litter accumulate: Rotting logs and natural litter on the forest floor can provide crucial habitats for firefly larvae.

3. Get a fountain: Most species of fireflies thrive in marshy areas near standing water. If you don’t live by a natural water source, consider adding a small pond or fountain—or even a birdbath—to your garden.

Above: On a recent trip home to Connecticut, Gardenista editor Erin armed herself with a wide-mouthed mason jar and a square of cheesecloth to do a bit of old-fashioned firefly catching.

4. Don’t use pesticides and fertilizers: It shouldn’t be surprising that pesticides that get sprayed to eradicate one type of insect can have detrimental effects across species. Although there’s no direct link between fertilizer use and firefly decline, it’s common sense that you will create a richer natural environment if you avoid synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. Better for you, better for the bugs.

5. Don’t over-mow your lawn: Fireflies tend to stay close to the ground, and mowing your lawn too often can destroy some of their favorite places to roam.
Above: Reducing outdoor light pollution is good for star gazing, fireflies, and just about every other living thing (including humans).

6. Plant trees: Trees—especially pines—provide a protective umbrella under which fireflies live and can mate. The needles that fall to the ground underneath pine trees create an additional habitat.

7. Talk to your neighbors: This is probably the best step you can take. Imagine how many more fireflies you’d see if the whole neighborhood just agreed to turn off the lights?

What did we miss? Add your suggestions in the comments section below–and be sure to spread the word!

For more ways to enjoy summer, naturally, see Gardenista‘s post How to Pick Berries Like a Pro.

108 comments

Lynn C.
Lynn C.2 years ago

ty

Joel Romp
Joel R.2 years ago

I love firefly's I have noticed I don't see them that often and I hate using my porch light anyways it is hardly on but my neighbor has one of those bright industrial garage style lights. I may have to talk to them about helping bring them back in the neighborhood.

Frances Darcy
Frances Darcy2 years ago

never seen a firefly.... do they exist here in Ireland... will google

'Great White' Earth Being
'Great White' 2 years ago

Have you seen the non-www.Care2.com link to ‘The Top Ten Most Dangerous Dogs (Puppy Toob)’ on this www.care2.com webpage?
Do you think we should be complaining to www.care2.com about that link being on The Care2 Website?
Anyone (including Caesar 'The Dog Whisper' Millan) that truly knows about dogs' behaviors, knows that the dogs' behaviors come from the amount quality and amount of needed training and are cued and directed by the people caring for them, people not caring for them or without anyone caring for them! Now, I am not saying there should not be educational articles here stating the above or even stupidly debating it; but should NEVER be anything communicating that the breeds make a difference.

'Great White' Earth Being
'Great White' 2 years ago

The fact that there are members (two, I have read so far) posting on here that they have never seen a Firefly SAYS IT ALL!

Ernie Miller
william Miller2 years ago

very interesting I turn off the lights anyway

Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton2 years ago

Nice to know.

Janis King
Janis K.2 years ago

Thanks!

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Janet G.
Janet G.2 years ago

Interesting article and comments :-) Sadly never seen a firefly, though they do look beautiful in pictures and on film :-)