Fireflies light up summer nights on every continent except Antarctica. [3] But their magic displays could fade into the dark if we don’t take action to save them. These insects have been devastated by the destruction of their habitat, pesticide use and light pollution.

Both male and female fireflies use bioluminescence (biological light) to attract mates. Males flash their unique pattern in an attempt to entice females — often waiting on the ground or in vegetation — to flash back. [3] After mating, some female fireflies will continue to flash but this time mimicking other firefly species to lure in males so they can eat them and gain their valuable protective toxins. [13]

Firefly larvae live in soil, consuming soft-bodied arthropods, just like snails, slugs and worms. Systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids that get into the soil and water harm firefly larvae and their prey. [17] Also, because fireflies are generally found in wetland habitats, they are threatened by insecticide spraying targeting mosquitoes.

There are at least 125 species of fireflies in the United States, but despite the  many threats they face, none are protected by Endangered Species Act. [3] But the Center is working to change that and ensure that the most imperiled fireflies, like the Bethany Beach firefly, get the protection they need to dodge extinction.



Bethany Beach fireflyBethany Beach Firefly

We’re working to save the Bethany Beach firefly, found in only a few spots in Delaware. [6] This wetland specialist inhabits dunes areas along a small stretch of Atlantic Coast. The area was once shrouded in darkness, which let the males and females find and mate with each other, putting on an amazing light show for anyone lucky enough to be in the area. But rapid urbanization — including more night lighting — and increased spraying for mosquitoes imperil the Bethany Beach firefly. This beetle is also imminently threatened by housing construction in one of its last remaining habitats along the Delaware coast.




Banner photo of firefly by Terry Priest/Flickr; Bethany Beach firefly photo by Christopher M. Heckscher, Delaware State University