Tag Archives: conservation

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

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Loving Chinese fireflies to death?

china valentines day.jpg

For the past few years, online sales of live fireflies have skyrocketed just before Qixi, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day. For many young Chinese, a jar of fireflies looks like a brilliant way to say “I love you.”

According to reports, more than 10 million Chinese fireflies were sold online in 2015, a tenfold rise compared with the same period the previous year. Costing a few hundred yuan, each  container holds 30-50 fireflies, most likely collected from the wild. But it makes a short-lived gift, because once they’re in captivity these fireflies will only survive a few days. Continue reading

We harvested 100 million U.S. fireflies?

Believe it or not, from 1960 until the mid-1990s, the Sigma Chemical Company (now called Sigma-Aldrich) harvested about 3 million wild fireflies every year. Each summer, they ran newspaper ads to recruit thousands of collectors across the U.S., who got paid a penny per firefly (with a $20 bonus if they sent in more than 200,000 fireflies).

What did they do with all those fireflies?

They extracted firefly luciferase, the light-producing enzyme, then sold it for use in food safety testing and research.

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