Enjoy the “dazzling light show” of fireflies – but they also need protection, says the researcher


Firefly tourism is brightening people’s lives around the world, but without proper protection for insect species, firefly populations can be in danger, according to new research co-authored by a professor in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Harvey Limlin, Professor in Lakehead University’s School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism, and co-author of “Firefly Tourism: Advancing a Global Phenomenon Toward a Brighter Future”, published in Conservation Science and Practice.

Visits to firefly sanctuaries in Mexico, India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and the United States, for example, have spiked in the past decade.

“We have a lot of inbound tourism, or what we might call stays during the pandemic,” Limlin said. “ But we also have some people who travel the world to see these wonderful animals, especially North America, because aside from a few locations in Tennessee and Carolina, we don’t get these big congregations of fireflies.

There is a carbon footprint for travel. Then there are concerns at the site. … we’ve seen more tourists … all night long, and so have animals [fireflies] You don’t get a break from humans.Harvey Limlin, researcher at Lakehead University

“I want to point out that sometimes agencies and operators withhold their numbers,” he said. “This international study, looking at 16 countries around the world, calculated that it was one million visitors a year.”

Fireflies, which are part of the beetle family, produce a chemical reaction that allows them to glow.

Lemelin said caring for flies is easy to understand, especially when it comes to groups of thousands in the refuge.

Magical moments

“We ask the tourist to close his eyes, wait for about two minutes and then open your eyes,” he said. “All the males flash at the same time, trying to compete for one another.

“It’s like a wonderful, moving, dazzling light show that no human can imitate, and it’s all around you,” Lemelin said. “It is one of the most magical and spiritual moments I have ever had in my life.”

Synchronized fireflies light up along the Bluff Trail in Congaree National Park in Hopkins, South Carolina. Watching fireflies has become extremely popular, with up to a million people visiting firefly sanctuaries around the world. However, experts warn that measures should be taken to protect firefly populations. (Sam Wolf / Reuters)

But as beautiful as fireflies can be, Lemelin said appropriate steps must be taken to protect them, as more and more people see them.

“First and foremost, there is a carbon footprint for travel,” he said. Then there are concerns at the site.

“A lot of managers and researchers used to say, in the past, we’ve seen their habitats change, so you kind of lose interest,” said Lemelin. “We’ve seen more tourists … all night long, so animals don’t get a break from humans.”

Another problem, he said, was the new lighting infrastructure, as fireflies are vulnerable to light pollution. Large crowds wandering around designated paths or away from designated viewing areas are also a problem, as they may trample on firefly larvae or non-flying females, and damage their habitat.

Preventive measures

The article Lemelin co-authored includes some measures to prevent damage to firefly populations, including:

  • Implement conservation practices to protect firefly habitats, and involve local communities.
  • Provide training programs for counselors as well as educational materials for visitors.

“Some places don’t do very well in education [tourists]”You have a magical spiritual light show going on there. These individuals should go to their homes and ask, ‘Why aren’t there firefly populations in Canada? What happened to all of their wetlands? What happened to all of their habitats? Why don’t we see fireflies the way we’re used to?'” He said.

More to track …
Bulletin Observer Science and Technology

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