Category Archives: Light Pollution

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

First Day of Spring

Moon Rise in Buckhead

Moon Rise in Buckhead

Today, March 20, 2015 is the first day of spring, which is the vernal equinox.  An equinox occurs twice a year, around March 20th and September 22nd.  On the day of the equinox, the center of the Sun spends roughly an equal amount of time above and below the horizon at every location on the Earth, so night and day are about the same length.

Night Sky and the Milky Way - Arches NP

Night Sky and the Milky Way – Arches NP

Why are we talking about the equinox?  Because it made us think about night and how important the darkness is to wildlife. And to us.

The International Dark Sky Organization is a non-profit which is “…fighting to preserve the night”.  They have a brochure that talks about light pollution and it’s impact on wildlife.  In the brochure, the ‘Solutions’ section tells about how important darkness is and things you can do to help keep it dark.

Last fall we were in Arches National Park at night where you can see the stars and the Milky Way and really experience the night. Compare the two pictures above of the night sky:  the first taken earlier this week right outside our front door and the second in Arches National Park.

Eastern Screech-Owl

Eastern Screech-Owl

We have our own night critters right here. At least three kinds of owls that we’ve heard or seen, bats, opossums and frogs just to name a few.  The Eastern Screech-Owl nested for several years in our yard.   And just recently we recorded the Barred Owl, a frequent nocturnal visitor, one night outside our back door.