Tag Archives: pesticides

Help Us Keep the Firefly Magic Alive!

Meet Yogi Firefly by SketchesInStillness

“The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you”

L.R. Knost

In 2020 the global pandemic of COVID-19 truly broke apart our world. This summer, when our days are filled with anxiety and despair, how can we find the courage to continue doing the work needed to repair the world?

Some people think fireflies are just tiny insects, but for me they’re so much more! They are luminous beings whose natural magic inspires optimism and hope even during the darkest times. That’s why we’ve chosen Hope Rising as the theme for World Firefly Day 2020.

While we celebrate on July 4-5 (also Independence Day in the U.S.), scientists around the world are working hard to develop a vaccine that will protect humanity from this deadly disease. At the same time, we’re working hard to preserve these hope-filled sparks for future generations to enjoy. Even though fireflies have simple needs – water, food, and shelter – they face major threats from loss of suitable habitat, light pollution, and widespread pesticide use.

Here are some simple things we all can do to help fireflies survive:

  • Protect their homes: help preserve the places where fireflies thrive.
  • Turn off the lights: too much light at night disrupts firefly courtship.
  • Don’t use pesticides in your lawn or garden: neonics and other insecticides harm juvenile fireflies.

And please help us spread the word by sharing more tips for creating more firefly-friendly places with others in your Home Owner’s Association, garden club, neighborhood, or town.

Because who’d want to live in a world without fireflies?

Learn more about how you can protect fireflies in Silent Sparks (Chapter 8 : Lights Out for Fireflies?)

Do neonics hurt fireflies?

pesticidesIn April 2018, the European Union voted to ban all outdoor uses of neonicotinoid insecticides, also known as neonics. First introduced in the 1990s, this new class of insecticides has rapidly gained popularity to become the most widely used pesticide in the world. Neonics, which are chemically similar to nicotine, affect the central nervous system of insects. Farmers and gardeners apply them as seed coatings, foliar spray or granules, and the insecticides are absorbed into the plants as they grow.

What’s the good news? As systemic pesticides, these chemicals are incorporated into plant tissues to protect them against many insect pests. And because neonics were designed to bind specifically to insect nerve cells, they have low toxicity for humans and other mammals. Continue reading

What’s good firefly habitat?

People often ask me this excellent question. Yet it doesn’t have a quick or easy answer. One reason is that different species live in different habitats. For instance, the salt marsh firefly Micronaspis floridana is restricted to intertidal regions along the Florida coast.  Another reason is that certain things matter to adult fireflies, whereas different things matter to the juveniles.

Micronaspis floridana

Some species have specialized habitat requirements (photo by Drew Fulton)

For adult fireflies, what’s most important is finding a dark place for their courtship displays. Artificial lights – streetlamps, outdoor security lights, even car headlights – can disrupt firefly courtship conversations.  Such bright backgrounds make it difficult for fireflies to see each other’s courtship signals. Another desirable habitat feature for adult females is easy access to suitable egg-laying sites, like moss, moist soil, or decaying wood.

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How Can I Make My Yard More Firefly-Friendly?

Here are a few simple ways to attract your local fireflies (from Silent Sparks Chapter 8):

Create an inviting habitat

  • Let the grass in part of your lawn grow longer by mowing it less frequently. This will help the soil hold more moisture.
  • Leave some leaf litter and woody debris in parts of your yard – this makes good habitat for larval fireflies.
  • Fireflies need moist places to lay their eggs, so preserve any wetlands, streams, or ponds in your neighborhood.

Bring back the night

  • When installing or re-thinking your outdoor lighting, use only what you need to get the job done.
  • Use Dark-Sky compliant, shielded lighting fixtures; these direct light downward, where it’s most useful for safety and security. Use bulbs as low-wattage as possible to provide just the light you need.
  • Turn off outdoor lights when they’re not needed, or put them on timers or motion sensors.

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