Harvesting Chinese Fireflies: Not Sustainable

By all reports, Chinese fireflies seem to be increasingly at risk from overharvesting. Last week, North First Park in Chengdu, China captured and released 100,000 fireflies to entertain visitors. The story, reported by Mao Yuting & Wu Xiaochuan in the Taiwanese  press, is translated below:

Chengdu park releases 100,000 fireflies: Expert says all will die within the week

“On the evening of June 25th, a firefly release event attracted many visitors to Chengdu North First Park. According to the event host, a total of 100,000 fireflies were released. At the scene, workers opened up a large glass box and fireflies flew out in unison, inciting great excitement among spectators. Some fireflies flew up, covering an area of the night sky with flickering green stars; some landed on the ground, where several children stooped to pick them up. More than a few spectators caught fireflies mid-flight and put them in bottles.

The following day, Director Zhao Li of the Huaxi Insectarium expressed his firm disapproval. According to the director, all of the 100,000 fireflies released will die within three to seven days. Fireflies have highly specific habitat requirements, and are unlikely to survive away from their native environment. Even if overall conditions are good, the new habitat should be tailored to address their needs, and an extended period of acclimation allowed. If nothing is done before the fireflies are released, the death rate will approach 100%.

chengdu ff release

Director Zhao added that similar events have defended their activities by stating that the fireflies released were raised artificially. However, in consideration of the great financial cost as well as technical difficulties involved, such a large number of fireflies could not possibly have all been raised by humans; instead, they were likely captured from a variety of locations. Although it is possible to raise fireflies artificially, at the present time there are very, very few firefly farms in China, so the likelihood of accumulating 100,000 adult fireflies is even smaller.”

Thanks to Avalon Owens for the translation!

Harvesting this many fireflies from wild populations is clearly not sustainable – sadly, it will not take long before these populations are extinguished.