Wildlife Gardeners - North American Wildlife Gardening

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-   -   Fireflies! (http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/forum/insects-arachnids-gastropods/8431-fireflies.html)

linrose 04-18-2011 08:37 PM

Fireflies!
 
I saw fireflies tonight! Is that weird? Seems waaaayyyyy too early. I think July when I think about fireflies.

Yup, just double-checked and there they were, Jason confirmed so I'm not crazy or seeing spots before my eyes. It's a calm balmy night at 72 degrees at 8:30 PM. A really perfect day.

dapjwy 04-18-2011 09:11 PM

It does seem way too early--I too think about (around) Fourth of July for them to start (a little earlier usually). I thought I saw one on a hazelnut twig--I've not seen them lighting up yet though. Were yours flashing their lights?

My guess is they could be out now, but don't start flashing until mating season.

jack 04-18-2011 09:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by linrose (Post 90327)
I saw fireflies tonight! Is that weird? Seems waaaayyyyy too early. I think July when I think about fireflies.

Yup, just double-checked and there they were, Jason confirmed so I'm not crazy or seeing spots before my eyes. It's a calm balmy night at 72 degrees at 8:30 PM. A really perfect day.

What vegetation were they clustering around? I'm growing four new native grasses in an area this year; one of my hopes is that they attract fireflies. I see a few each year and am always hoping i can increase their numbers by judicious plantings and elimination of alien species. Just about all of the aliens are now extirpated, but I can't say the firefly population has jettisoned into anything like high numbers.

What do you find they are most attracted to??

dapjwy 04-18-2011 09:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jack (Post 90335)
I'm growing four new native grasses in an area this year; one of my hopes is that they attract fireflies. I see a few each year and am always hoping i can increase their numbers by judicious plantings and elimination of alien species.


Sounds like a great plan. Good luck with it. If you are seeing some, I'd like to think you will start seeing more each year.

Quote:

Originally Posted by jack (Post 90335)
Just about all of the aliens are now extirpated...



GREAT job! It will be years before I accomplish that--if ever--on our two acres.


Quote:

Originally Posted by jack (Post 90335)
What do you find they are most attracted to??



There is a chapter about fireflies in Noah's Garden, I think. Hopefully, I'll find time to look for it for you in the next couple of days...feel free to remind me.


It is past my bedtime--but I napped earlier and am still up now. :(

linrose 04-19-2011 06:35 AM

1 Attachment(s)
I started to notice them looking out from the deck over toward the sinkhole, a dampish area which usually grows up with blackberries, pokeweed, asters and goldenrods. I did read they like moist areas. As I continued watching I found they were everywhere in the field.

"So what makes for a firefly habitat in the garden? Seems wet springs producing moist soils and lots of decaying organic matter where slugs and worms and other larvae live, along with dark corners of a garden where trees and shrubs shade open areas from street and home lights"

pollinators-welcome: Firefly?s life cycle and habitat

I believe this is our own Gloria's blogspot (Hi Gloria from Chicago!) Maybe she can add more if she reads this.

This is the sinkhole where I saw many fireflies.

jack 04-19-2011 09:46 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by linrose (Post 90346)
I started to notice them looking out from the deck over toward the sinkhole, a dampish area which usually grows up with blackberries, pokeweed, asters and goldenrods. I did read they like moist areas. As I continued watching I found they were everywhere in the field.

"So what makes for a firefly habitat in the garden? Seems wet springs producing moist soils and lots of decaying organic matter where slugs and worms and other larvae live, along with dark corners of a garden where trees and shrubs shade open areas from street and home lights"

pollinators-welcome: Firefly?s life cycle and habitat

I believe this is our own Gloria's blogspot (Hi Gloria from Chicago!) Maybe she can add more if she reads this.

This is the sinkhole where I saw many fireflies.

Thanks, Linrose. When I was a teenager I went to school in Brunswick, Maine for a summer and experienced, for the first time (I was a city boy) the wonder of fireflies. I had a plan which was to catch a horde of them before I left and release them in my neighborhood, which had nary a tree or a patch of lawn. Alas, as would be expected, the plan failed.

Now, whenever I see any fireflies in the yard, the old magic returns and I lust for the abundant numbers I knew back then. However, I may be well on my way towards success. In the past few years I have been laying leaf mulch from the local cemetery in great abundance in sections of the yard, reducing the amount of grass mown, and planting natives after removing aliens from the space. I also have a section that is quite damp at this time of the year, though in midsummer, it dries up except after a heavy rain.

Gloria, if you're following along, please add your knowledge to the link. Thanks for any help in the endeavor!!!

jack 04-19-2011 09:53 AM

picture of a firefly larvae
 
Adirondack Almanack: Ellen Rathbone: Fireflies, Firefly Larvae & Glowworms

Gloria 04-19-2011 10:45 AM

Linrose, thanks for the mention. It is amazing the number of people that have read that particular bit about fireflies.
The best way to get fireflies to reproduce in your garden is to have areas of soil that are rich in decomposing organic matter and moist during spring and early summer while the fireflies are mating and then laying eggs in the soil. Wet prairie to mesic prairie and near wetlands and streams are where the largest populations exist. Home gardens with trees, shrubs and flowerbeds seem to make good homes but no pesticide use especially during mating season. We have been lucky that the summer mosquito sprays have been largely at the end of the mating season after temperatures have been high enough for a few weeks the firefly population becomes mostly soil dwelling as larvae.

Most adult fireflies do not eat at all, a few species the female attacks other species of male to acquire the substance that makes the flashing light. Whatever you grow will work as long as long as it does not mat over the soil. Firefly larvae are the best slug deterrent I have found. As the fireflies increase in our garden the slug numbers have decreased dramatically. Firefly larvae are fierce predators.

The bad news is that fireflies tend to stay in the same area with little movement so if you never see fireflies anywhere (like at the parks or a local pond or stream) it will be hard to impossible to reinstate. The good news is that with the proper habitat even just a few fireflies in your area will reproduce, increasing in number each season.

I have seen many city of Chicago gardens with fireflies each year so urban areas do have fireflies. Our local rainfall amounts and the abundant marshy lands surrounding the Lake and our forest preserves surrounded by open areas has done much to keep the firefly population alive. But we as gardeners can do much to bring back the larger populations that make early summer dusk so enticing for children.

Gloria 04-19-2011 10:56 AM

I forgot something very important. Light, streetlights, yard lights any light that comes on and stays on at dusk deterrs fireflies. Tree canopy, Shrubs and hedges, the house itself can provide dark corners and dim open spaces if you use outdoor lights that only come on when people are actually present for safety but go off when there is no motion.

dapjwy 04-19-2011 05:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jack (Post 90352)
Thanks, Linrose. When I was a teenager I went to school in Brunswick, Maine for a summer and experienced, for the first time (I was a city boy) the wonder of fireflies. I had a plan which was to catch a horde of them before I left and release them in my neighborhood, which had nary a tree or a patch of lawn. Alas, as would be expected, the plan failed.

Now, whenever I see any fireflies in the yard, the old magic returns...

Your comments reminded me of a story. One of my cousins from California (later they moved to Oregon), always looked forward to summers in PA (they visited approximately every 5 years)--he loved the lightning bugs. That is when I found out that their range didn't extend that far west.

Quote:

Originally Posted by jack (Post 90352)
...and I lust for the abundant numbers I knew back then. However, I may be well on my way towards success. In the past few years I have been laying leaf mulch from the local cemetery in great abundance in sections of the yard, reducing the amount of grass mown, and planting natives after removing aliens from the space. I also have a section that is quite damp at this time of the year, though in midsummer, it dries up except after a heavy rain.

It does sound like you have what it takes. I glanced through Noah's Garden...there is mention of natural edge and meadow. "You can't have mowed lawns and fireflies..." So, you sound like you are well on your way. Let us know what this season brings--a big increase in your lightning bugs, I hope.


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