Fireflies were as ubiquitous in the summer night sky as stars. Now the insects are facing extinction, and yes, humans are to blame.
Of the nearly 2,000 species of fireflies across the world, 200 are found in the U.S. However, many of those that were once common have now disappeared. There are two main reasons why these insects are on the decline: light pollution and development. On top of that, pesticides, weed killers, and logging have also played a role in the species' disappearance.
The marshes and meadows that were once lit up by the bioluminescent bug are slowly disappearing thanks to increasing development of the environment they call home. "The problem is that in America and throughout the world, our open fields and forests are being paved over, and our waterways are seeing more development and noisy boat traffic. As their habitat disappears under housing and commercial developments, firefly numbers dwindle," according to Firefly Research and Conservation.
Because fireflies rely on their bioluminescence for reproduction, artificial light pollution has been detrimental to their population. Male fireflies attract mates through the familiar glow that gives them their name, and in order to do this successfully, darkness is required. "We believe the fireflies' mating can be interfered with by too much light around their population," Christopher Heckscher, an entomologist at Delaware State University, told USA Today.
The fact that fireflies are dying out should be a big concern because it's an indicator of a much larger issue. "If fireflies are disappearing that means we're losing a lot more than fireflies. They can be an indicator of the quality of the wetlands. As the wetlands go, so go the fireflies" Heckscher said.
Once fireflies are gone, they're gone forever. But it's not too late to save them. In order to make sure future generations enjoy fireflies in all the summers to come, we must take action. Turning off outside lights can give fireflies the darkness they need to find a mate. Additionally, if you live near a wetland, keeping taller grass in your yard can give fireflies a place to live. Also, avoid using pesticides and weed killers when taking care of your yard.
Fireflies shouldn't just be something we remember from our childhood, they should be part of our future, too.
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