Last week (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
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.
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.
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.