Written by Eileen Kragie
Summer approaches quickly with winter and spring giving way to the magic and mystery of Mother Nature and her eternal rhythms. Nights shortening and days beginning to stretch to their longest of the year. Flowers, trees, shrubs bloom. The magnificent array of birds return from their winter resting grounds, bringing with them the songs that greet us as daylight comes earlier and earlier.
Summer…the time for picnics, barbecues, lying outside in soft grass and fields, gazing up at the night sky, counting stars, pointing out constellations and shooting stars. Among all of the treasures and magic of summer, fireflies reign supreme. Their lives so short, so fleeting, bringing such delight to all.
Fireflies typically come out from May to late June, though do last into July. The muggy, humid summer environment we have here in Fairfax County is ideal for fireflies1. Children are especially captivated by the wonderful blinking of our summer companions. A quintessential summer experience in our area. Or it used to be. These days with population and development growing exponentially, our fireflies are rapidly diminishing. What used to be taken for granted is now hard to find, if not impossible, in many neighborhoods and towns.
Our irresponsible and overuse use of outdoor light at night is severely affecting fireflies’ ability to reproduce. Fireflies need darkness to find dates, to mate, to make little baby fireflies. Even the minutest amount of artificial light adversely affects their ability to find suitable partners to mate.
Learn More: Dark Skies (www.fairfaxcounty.gov)
Along with leaf blowing that goes on all year long these days, fireflies are dying in vast numbers. Fireflies, and other insects, need the mulch of decomposing leaves and organic matter to survive through the winter. Coupled with the use of fertilizers and pesticides, we humans are killing off an untold number of nocturnal pollinators and insect species that we all need for our own survival.
This summer, take time to enjoy the magic of these blinking, joyful, fleeting creatures. Make sure your home has dark sky friendly lighting2 and employ the principles for responsible outdoor lighting using these tips below3:
- Turn off your outside lights
- Use lights only if they are needed
- Fully shield all lights
- Direct light so that it falls only where it is needed
- Lights should be no brighter than necessary
- Use warmer colored bulbs and ones not too bright
- Remove unneeded landscape and architectural lights
- Turn on lights only when it is needed
- Check to make sure your lights are not trespassing and keep the illumination contained within your own property boundary
Enjoy the magical moments of summer as Mother Nature designed and intended!
- Fireflies Shed Light on the Benefits of a Natural Yard (Chesapeake Bay Program)
- Dark Sky Friendly Home Lighting Program (International Dark Sky Week 2023)
- Five Lighting Principles for Responsible Outdoor Lighting (International Dark-Sky Association)