Conservationists Act to Protect Rare Firefly as Endangered

Fireflies might have the benefit of being an insect that we’ve come to love, but despite their popularity, they’re declining around the world. Now, conservationists are acting to ensure an imperiled firefly who only exists in Delaware continues to light up the night.

The Bethany Beach firefly, who was only first described in 1953, is a bioluminescent beetle who can only be found in freshwater swales, or marshy areas between dunes, along a small area of coastline in the state. They’ve only been documented at seven sites there, and are facing a growing barrage of threats that are making extinction look like the most likely scenario.

In an effort to ensure their survival, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Center for Biological Diversity have jointly filed an emergency petition seeking protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), in addition to seeking a critical habitat designation.

“We’re on the brink of losing a unique piece of Delaware’s biodiversity, one that symbolizes the very habitats that have drawn so many people to this state in the first place,” said Candace Fallon, petition coauthor and senior conservation biologist at the Xerces Society. “There’s no question that this firefly urgently needs our help to prevent it from going extinct.”

According to the petitioners, these fireflies are being threatened by urbanization, habitat fragmentation, light pollution, pesticides, small population sizes, our recreational activities, invasive plants, and climate change, and even though they’re listed as endangered by the state, no regulations exist to protect them or their homes.

Even more worrying is that on top of those threats, their largest remaining population is being put in immediate danger by the construction of a housing development near Bethany Beach, otherwise known as Tower Shores, which is expected to have serious consequences.

As the petitioners note, they’ve already nearly disappeared from three of their seven remaining sites, and while six of their remaining populations live in state parks, only a single firefly was found at two of those sites during the most recent survey conducted.

It’s hoped that federal protection would help them by addressing some of the major threats they’re up against, including development, pesticide use and invasive plants, in addition to mitigating the impact of climate change, and the sea-level rise and severe weather that comes with it. A critical habitat designation would also help keep their small populations connected, which is especially important for these fireflies because they stay close to home.

According to the petitioners, if the FWS lists them, it would be the first time a firefly received federal protection in the U.S.

“Without immediate protections, the magical green flashes known to generations of children will be snuffed out forever,” said Dr. Tara Cornelisse, an entomologist who is a senior scientist at the Center. “We can’t stand by and let development, climate change and pesticides wipe out these amazing creatures, along with their wetland homes that many species depend on.”

Hopefully the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will respond favorably to this petition, and these rare fireflies will get the protection they need to keep them from disappearing from the landscape forever.

Photo credit: Getty Images

90 comments

Ronald Tague
Ronald Tague18 days ago

Thanks for this information!

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Daniel N
Daniel N19 days ago

Thank you for posting

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Doris F
Doris F19 days ago

@C2...what happens with C2 ?????
All actions are break down ! hmmmpfff :-(

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Shae Lee
Shae Lee19 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Leopold Marek
Leopold Marek20 days ago

Tyfs

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Leopold Marek
Leopold Marek20 days ago

Tyfs

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Hannah A
Hannah A20 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan H20 days ago

thanks

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Winn A
Winn Adams20 days ago

Thanks

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Winn A
Winn Adams20 days ago

Now that I live on the W Coast I very rarely see them.

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