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The Firefly Population Is Dropping—Here’s 7 Things You Can Do To Help Attract Them

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are a perennial part of summertime. Growing up, I still remember waiting for the sun to set and running outside to watch our yard light up with the magic little creatures.

Unfortunately, due to a variety of factors, fireflies are diminishing across the world. Clemson University even launched the Vanishing Firefly Project to help promote “environmental sustainability and stewardship through the participation of local communities in environmental science research.”  Scientists believe that our increasing city growth, light pollution, and pesticides are the causes for the decline in our favorite summertime bug.

However, there are still some things you can do to help make your yard a welcoming place for fireflies. Try these seven tips to attract fireflies and help keep their populations growing.

1.  Turn Off That Porch Light

porch light photo
Photo by Rob Ireton

The main reason fireflies light up is to attract a mate. Males use distinct light patterns to let females know what species they are, because there can be up to five different species in the same area at one time. If a female is interested, she will light back. Outdoor lights can interfere with fireflies’ mating behavior, so it’s best to keep the lights off.

2. Keep An Old Wood Pile

wood pile photo
Photo by Jan Tik

According to Firefly.org, firefly larvae grows in logs and other litter that accumulates beneath the trees (e.g. pine needles). To encourage more growth, plant some trees in your yard and leave the natural litter around to give the flies a place to grow.

3. Add Water Features To Your Landscape

pond photo
Photo by Tobyotter

Fireflies love moisture and wet, marshy conditions. Firefly.org recommends building a small pond to help attract fireflies. The only downside is that those same wet conditions also attract unwanted bugs like mosquitoes. If you don’t have a mosquito problem in your area, then give it a shot.

4. Avoid Pesticides And Use Natural Fertilizers

pesticides photo
Photo by Peter Organisciak

According to Clemson University, one of the biggest reasons for the decline in the firefly population is the increased use of pesticides. These chemicals do a great job of killing unwanted bugs but they also kill our beloved fireflies. The Vanishing Firefly Project recommends limiting the use of these chemicals especially during peak firefly season.

5. Plant Native Trees

pine tree photo
Photo by maxrempel

Terry Lynch, a firefly expert, says that pine trees are a great native environment for fireflies. They provide shade and low light conditions along with a bed of pine needles—all-in-all a great environment for the firefly larvae.

6. Let The Grass Grow High

grass photo
Photo by amitp

Female fireflies rest on tall grass and watch their male counterparts fly around lighting up the sky. The National Gardening Association recommends keeping the grass high to encourage areas for the females to rest. Obviously, it may not be practical to let your grass run wild, but one idea is to keep a strip of longer grass on the perimeter of your yard.

7. Get Your Neighbors Onboard

suburbia photo
Photo by David Hilowitz

Like any insect, fireflies are attracted to a broad area not just your house. By getting your neighbors onboard and working together to do the above tips, you will be able to attract more flies. With the population of the these bugs dwindling, anything that your neighborhood can do will help.