Following a summer of scorching drought, wildfires have ravaged parts of the southeastern United States. Last month, a devastating fire burned out of control through Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Chimney 2 forest fire burns in the Smoky Mountains (Nov 2016)
From its starting point in the Great Smokies National Park, the fire exploded into an inferno fanned by strong winds. For days, hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze. The Sevier County mayor called the combination of wind and dry tinder a “once-in-a-lifetime event…a perfect storm.” By the time they finally extinguished the fire, the charred landscape stretched across 17,500 acres. Fourteen people lost their lives, and nearly 200 were injured. Tens of thousands were forced to evacuate, and over 2400 homes and businesses were destroyed.
We can sense the change all around us – Earth’s climate is shifting. Our summers are getting hotter, and precipitation patterns are getting more extreme. But climate change doesn’t just affect human beings. It’s a game-changer for all of Earth’s living things. So maybe you’re wondering – how will fireflies react to such fundamental changes?
Everyone knows Earth’s temperature is rising. You’ve probably noticed that many flowers have now started to bloom earlier. So it’s not surprising that fireflies may also start “flowering” earlier. Like many seasonal creatures, fireflies depend on local soil and air temperatures for cues about when to emerge. With warmer temperatures, firefly eggs and larvae can grow more quickly and so will become breeding adults sooner. This already seems to be happening in at least one firefly species.
Fireflies need moisture during all of their life stages, especially their eggs and their long-lasting larval stage. Firefly larvae in the U.S. live in either soil or rotting wood, and this juvenile stage lasts up to 2 years in temperate latitudes.
Dry conditions mean fewer fireflies in future years.