Wisconsin June 11, 2018
This Firefly Phenomenon In Wisconsin Will Enchant You In The Best Way Possible
Every summer, the yards and fields of Wisconsin light up with fireflies. These little beetles come out in the warm weather to attract mates with their bioluminescence. There are more than 2,000 species of firefly and each one has a slightly different light and pattern they use to attract mates.
Last year was one of the best years ever in Wisconsin for viewing these little lightning bugs and the conditions this spring mean we’re likely to see a similar burst of brilliantly lit yards this summer as well.
Fireflies like warm, wet conditions and they dine on slugs, which also thrive in moist environments. In May, parts of the state saw up to 5 inches of rain and most of the state was above 2.5" of precipitation. Those are similar numbers to last year, meaning it's not crazy to imagine we'll see a similar proliferation of fireflies.
The way that the fireflies flash and move is actually part of their mating ritual. Males fly around in swarms lighting up at the same time for four to eight flashes. Then they stop flashing altogether for another 12 seconds waiting for the females to flash in the same way so they (the males) can locate them.
The lights also serve as a warning to predators. It's likely that the chemicals that work together to create the bioluminescence don't taste very good, so lighting up the night lets their predators know that they're not worth bothering with.
There's not a lot known about these ephemeral bugs, which have a short lifespan. With so many different species, they're hard to get a handle on. Lightning bugs are so dependent on their environment that it can be difficult to know if a year where there seems to be fewer fireflies has to do with declining populations or lack of rainfall.
Lightning bugs need a moist environment, so anything from lack of rains to draining of natural ponds, lakes and swamplands for development can affect them.
One group looking to help keep these magical lights in our night meets at Schlitz Audubon Center in Bayside to participate in a citizen scientist evening. They learn about the bugs and then take part in a census of sorts, trying to count the fireflies they see and adding to the national Firefly Watch counts. The first event is July 10, but they'll continue every Tuesday night throughout the summer.
These tiny bugs provide pyrotechnics all summer long and they add to the magical, wonderful feeling of freedom that comes with summer when you're a kid.
There is no exact firefly season in Wisconsin - you'll start to see them light the night in early June and it'll likely last into August.
Get yourself an area with not a lot of light pollution and settle in for one of nature's brilliant, natural shows.
The Schlitz Audubon Nature Center is located at 1111 E Brown Deer Rd., Bayside, WI 53217. For more information
check out their website or their Facebook page. This is the event listing for the first Citizen Scientist Firefly Count.
Looking for another awesome Wisconsin summer light show?
Check out how to watch the Perseids meteor shower right here at home.