Fireflies are one of the most well-known bioluminescent organisms in the world. Their light displays captivate people from around the world each summer. If you love these intriguing beetles, perhaps you’re wondering: where and when can you see fireflies? Keep reading as we answer this and other questions.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Do Fireflies Live?
Fireflies are found throughout the world. They live on every continent except Antarctica.
Their preferred habitats are temperate and tropical forests and wetlands, and they can be found in many such environments the world over.
There are 2,200 species of firefly throughout the world, with only around 165 native to North America.
That said, they are a common insect in the U.S. and Canada, known for lighting up summer nights and providing some incredible light shows.
When Is the Best Time to See Fireflies in North America?
Fireflies spend only a short period of their lives as adults, typically during the late spring and early summer. It is during this stage that they produce their characteristic light shows.
The exact time period when fireflies are most visible can vary from year to year, and warmer regions typically experience firefly emergence earlier in the season than cooler regions.
For example, in Florida, it is common to see fireflies as early as March or April. Further north, they may not make their appearance until late May, early or late June, or even early July.
Different species of fireflies can appear at different times as well. Some emerge earlier than others, while some appear much later than average.
Generally speaking, however, most locations experience the greatest number of adult fireflies in May and June.
Where Are the Best Places to See Fireflies?
In the U.S., you can see fireflies in most temperate and subtropical areas east of the Rocky Mountains. But some spots have such a great concentration of them that tourists travel from near and far just to catch a glimpse.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of these spots.
Allegheny National Forest
Allegheny National Forest is located in Pennsylvania. It is one of the oldest spots for viewing fireflies, as it was the place where visitors first began noticing and spreading the word about the firefly populations.
This forest alone houses about 15 different species of firefly. One of these is the synchronous firefly.
The males of this firefly species have adapted to flashing their lights at the same time to ensure attracting mates of the same species. Thousands upon thousands of synchronous fireflies gather together each summer, producing massive synchronized flashes of light.
Those hoping to view this display are provided with passes and tips to maximize viewing, though there are no designated spots within the forest for seeing fireflies. It is your job to search them out yourself when you visit.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located in Tennessee, is the most popular national park in the U.S. by number of visitors.
The park boasts over 800 miles of trails and a diverse array of both plant and animal life. One of the most popular attractions is the yearly synchronous firefly viewing event.
In fact, this event has become so popular that the park has had to institute a lottery system to limit the number of people entering the park for firefly viewing.
Each year, potential tourists fill out an application, and each year, just 800 applications are selected–100 carloads for each night. The viewing event lasts for just eight nights each spring.
Those selected to participate in the viewing are treated to a stunning sight: one of the largest synchronous firefly displays in the world.
Check out this video to learn more:
Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park is located in South Carolina. It was once called Congaree Swamp, as it is a large wetland region with many unique wetland species.
Congaree is a smaller national park than Great Smoky Mountains, but it still boasts a huge population of synchronous fireflies.
In fact, like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Congaree National Park has become such a popular spot for firefly viewing that it has had to institute a parking pass lottery.
Those hoping to check out the stunning scene have to submit an application during a set period of time when the lottery is open. 130 carloads are awarded parking passes for each evening of the viewing period, which only lasts a handful of days each spring.
Blue Spring State Park
Blue Springs State Park is located in Florida. It is one of the smaller but more regionally popular spots for viewing fireflies.
Its swampy, wetland environment provides the perfect habitat for these small glowing insects. Though there are no special viewing events, park visitors can obtain a pass to stay after dark in order to enjoy the show.
Various firefly species can be seen flashing their lights in Blue Spring State Park. The best time to view them is from late March to early April.
Fireflies are common throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world, but there are a few spots in the U.S. that are especially popular for viewing them. These spots are Allegheny National Forest, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Congaree National Park, and Blue Spring State Park.