The Real Light Show

After more than half a century, Lenox Square announced that it will discontinue its 4th of July fireworks show. [12]   Since it’s about as close as we get to tradition, we will miss it.  Goodbye Lenox Square – it’s been fun.

So now what are you going to do on the 4th?

A suggestion is to enjoy a free light show in your own back yard without all the noise and pyrotechnics.  Beginning in late May through the end of July fireflies (lightning bugs) will visit your yard if the conditions are right.  Turn out the yard lights, sit quietly and watch.  It’s quite a show.  There have been nights in mid June where our trees, shrubbery and lawn were flashing with hundreds of them.

Fireflies in south Georgia – photo: Jud McCranie

You know this – you used to collect them in a glass jar with air holes poked in the lid and a bit of moist paper towel in the bottom  to keep them safe until you released them.  It’s much more fun than a bazillion dollar fireworks show and it lasts a lot longer than 15 minutes.

Georgia has more firefly species (56!) than any other state, each having its own distinct flash. Males flash while flying; wingless females sit on vegetation and emit their own light signals, which the males cue on. [6]  They prefer warm, fairly wet weather, and in this part of the country they tend to appear in May, June or July.  [7]

Photo Wikimedia Commons: NEUROtiker

Fireflies hibernate in winter during the larval stage, some species for several years.  Some do this by burrowing underground, while others find places on or under the bark of trees. They emerge in the spring.  Help keep them safe: no pesticides on your lawn and please don’t spray for mosquitoes.

Learn a little more about fireflies including synchronous fireflies (hundreds flash in unison) by checking out the links below.

Mysterious and little known organisms lie within walking distance of where you sit.  Splendor awaits in minute proportions. – E. O. Wilson

References and Additional Information

[1]  Silent Sparks – The Wonderous World of Fireflies – Sarah Lewis, Princeton University Press
[2]  Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs – Lynn Frierson Faust, UGA Press
[3]  Georgia DNR – Out My Back Door:  Fireflies Create Sparkling Backyard Wonderlands
[4]  National Park Service: Synchronous Fireflies
[5]  The Smokey Mountain Hiking Blog: The Synchronous Fireflies of Elkmont
[6]  AJC – Charles Seabrook:  Blinking fireflies are icons of Georgia summer nights
[7]  Firefly.org Fifty Questions
[8]  Smithsonian Magazine: 14 Fun Facts About Fireflies
[9]  [Boston] Museum of Science:  Firefly Watch
[10]  Wikipedia: Firefly
[11]  Wikipedia: Elkmont, Tennessee
[12]  AJC – May 3, 2017
[13]  National Park Service – Congaree National Park: Synchronized Fireflies at Congaree

2 thoughts on “The Real Light Show

    1. beveritt Post author

      Thanks for asking. Initially it really was intown hawks – a pair of Cooper’s Hawks we watched raising their young across the street. Then we started thinking about how many different kinds of wildlife we had been seeing just in our yard and the yards around us: the Great Blue Heron, raccoons, possums, many varieties of song birds, snakes, spiders, butterflies…. it’s along list. So we started writing about it, and over time people began to contribute their own stories: wild turkeys, box turtles and even a woodchuck; we are going to check out a woodchuck den this week because of an email from a neighbor.

      And trees. A neighbor called us just last night to come measure the circumference of a magnificent White Oak tree in her front yard. The circumference is 17 feet (204 inches) which means the diameter is almost 5 1/2 feet! According to methods for estimating a tree’s age, this tree could possibly be over 300 years old! She loves this tree and will tell all who ask how special it is. This story alone is worth telling.

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