Interrupting the Fireflies

I watched this TED talk on fireflies the other day.

And it really got me thinking about these small, bright creatures. They are absolutely extraordinary to see in the summer when you’re looking at a dark field covered in millions of the little glimmering beetles.

I started wondering: What is their purpose?

They don’t exist just to be pretty. How do they contribute to the ecosystem?

I really enjoyed listening to Sara Lewis speak about fireflies. They really excite her and I was absolutely amazed to hear about the crazy ways they have adapted to their world.

Fireflies are in fact a key part of the ecosystem. In their larval stages, they feed on caterpillars, earthworms, and other insects. The boreal firefly larvae will even feed on snails near ponds.

Some fireflies are known to be pollinators, which is very important. In a post I will write in the near future, I am going to talk about pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, and why these animals are so vital and necessary for us to have a good quality of life.

There are over 2000 species of fireflies, each having their own distinct light pattern to attract mates. This ability lets each firefly find another member of its own species in a group of millions of these insects. It’s truly amazing.

Which is why I’m going to talk about something that most people don’t even consider a problem.

Light pollution.

The vast amount of light we produce prevents us from being able to stargaze at night. It disturbs us while we sleep. It uses up a lot of electricity. Don’t get me wrong, artificial light is important, but it harms more than just people.

Fireflies rely on their environment being dark in order to communicate with each other. With the light pollution that people produce, fireflies struggle to find mates.

Other organisms that are affected by light pollution include song birds, which may sing earlier due to light pollution, and sea turtles, which may go inland after hatching instead of toward the ocean.

There are different kinds of lighting, bad and good. Bad lighting includes light trespass (when light is shined in places where it is not intended), glare (when light reflects off of surfaces and is carelessly shined), uplight (when light is shined directly into the sky, which only results in energy waste and the inability to stargaze), and clutter (which is when there are just too many lights in one place).

These types of careless lighting waste energy, disturb nature, and can even confuse or blind people who are driving. When something is lit in a responsible manner, the only light seen is on the object that needs to be lit.

If you want to reduce the amount of light pollution you produce, consider turning off your internal and external lights when you aren’t using them, changing the way your lights are positioned so they don’t shine unwelcome into the habitats of fireflies, and encouraging the people you know to do the same.

Thank you for reading! I hope you make an effort to help out the fireflies!


The link to Sara Lewis’ TED talk is here.

Information about fireflies can be found here.

Information about light pollution can be read here.


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