Hope's Corner: This Little Light of Mine
"If you catch any fireflies in a jar to use as a night light, make sure to turn them loose again so that they can continue doing their firefly business," writes Jackie Hope.
Where have all the fireflies gone? Do you remember them lighting up your back yard when you were little? Do you remember catching them in a jar and using them as a night light? My mom would always come and get my jar after I fell asleep, and turn them loose. In the morning my jar would be empty, and Mom would convince me that they had escaped back to the wild.
So where have all the fireflies gone?
According to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation website, fireflies are found on every continent in the world, except Antarctica. There are over 2,200 different species of fireflies, and in the United States and Canada there are 165 different varieties. You would think at least one of those varieties would show up in my yard on a hot summer night.
Most of the flashing varieties of fireflies live east of the Mississippi. Okay, there is a clue. I grew up about 50 miles east of the Mississippi. So more flashers lived in my hometown. No, wait. More flashing fireflies lived in my hometown.
People west of the Mississippi mostly see glow-worms and daytime dark flies. Huh. The only glow-worms I have seen in North Dakota are the plushies that light up when you squeeze them. And a daytime dark fly? That sounds like a plain old horsefly to me.
More troubling, however, is the decline in numbers of fireflies, worldwide. Like honeybees and monarch butterflies, fireflies are becoming endangered. Fireflies need wetlands, damp fields, and streams to breed and to find food. Drought and dry stream beds are taking a toll on fireflies.
Fireflies are also affected by light pollution. Since they do most of their important business at night, they can become confused by too much artificial light. They need darkness to communicate with one another, and to find potential mates. If there is too much artificial light, it obscures the little flashes the fireflies make. And if they cannot fine one another at night, there is not much chance of increasing their population.
Pesticides indirectly harm fireflies, as well. Fireflies spend most of their lives in the larval stage, living underground and eating slimy, crawly things that are even more disgusting than their own larval selves. Pesticides destroy the slugs and snails and earthworms that larval fireflies dote on.
As yet, there have been few conservation efforts on behalf of fireflies. But there are things we can do in our own back yards to encourage fireflies to visit. Turn off your outdoor lights during midsummer, if you are not outside. Let a corner of your yard or garden get a little shaggy, to provide a buggy habitat. Leave some leaves on the ground in the fall to provide a shelter for over-wintering.
And if you catch any fireflies in a jar to use as a night light, make sure to turn them loose again so that they can continue doing their firefly business.
Jackie Hope is the longest running Dickinson Press contributor and columnist. "Hope's Corner" is a weekly humorous column centered on a message of hope for residents in southwest North Dakota.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Dickinson Press, nor Forum ownership.