Lights Out For Fireflies?

Fireflies have long been a hallmark of summer and a staple of hot, lazy evenings– but those days may be coming to an end. A recent article from Grist drew our attention to the alarming decline of firefly populations across the world, a phenomenon that has struggled to garner its deserved media attention in the midst of so many other stories of threatened creatures.

In 2010, representatives from 13 different countries convened in Malaysia for the Second Annual International Firefly Symposium. There, participants drew up The Selangor Declaration (later updated in 2014), which stated with urgency that the dwindling firefly population “reflects a decline in the health of the environment and a global trend of increasing biodiversity loss.” The declaration acknowledged that while research on fireflies remains scant and underfunded, there are a number of benefits fireflies provide, ranging from the tangible (like eco-tourism) to the abstract (inspiration for folklore and the arts).

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Unsurprisingly, the root source of the decline has to do with human influence, primarily through urbanization and development. The wide-spread loss of the firefly’s natural habitat (meadow lands, woods, coasts) has been the largest contributing factor to diminishing populations, but other indirect effects of climate change (like shifting territories of invasive species and increasing drought) have further strained the firefly’s already vulnerable resources.

Fortunately, there are a few easy steps that concerned citizens can take at home to help protect their local firefly populations: avoid using harsh pesticides and industrial bug sprays (an all-natural mosquito repellant works wonders if you’re worried about bites), and remembering to turn off lights visible from outside. Planting native grasses and shrubs around your home to help restore the meadow-like environment that fireflies enjoy is also helpful. With any luck, these changes will make your night a little brighter in the long run.

Photos courtesy of Tsuneaki Hiramatsu. To see more of his work, check out his website.

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