The season’s first firefly just blinked through our backyard last night, announcing the start of that brief, magical time of the year when the kids race around the yard in the twilight each night in pursuit of those little blinks of light.
We’ve always been content to watch them in our own yard, or maybe at the park, but I just found out that there are actually a few firefly destinations, one quite close to home.
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a (group? swarm?) of synchronous fireflies appears in the area of the park near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Each night for about a week, their rare talent is on display: they blink in unison, creating perfectly choreographed patterns of light.
One of the only other known places where this phenomenon occurs is in the mangrove swamps of Kuala Selangor, just outside of Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. There, the fireflies flick more in a rhythm, and stay congregated in “firefly trees.” You can take firefly boat tours to see them.
The Park Service closes off the Elkmont entrance to traffic, and visitors can take a shuttle to see the fireflies each evening. This year, peak firefly viewing is June 5 to 13. That’s two days from now: how can we not go?
Another cool firefly-related activity: the Museum of Science, Boston has a firefly watch program that allows you/your kids to contribute to their research. Just go to their web site for details on how you can register your backyard as a firefly habitat.