The Great Smoky Mountains is truly a magical place. Especially during the summer months when beauty can be found in every direction. Each year towards the end of May and beginning of June visitors can venture into the park and witness something truly unique.
Synchronous fireflies (photinus carolinus) are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and one of only a few species in the world known to synchronize their flash patterns.
These light patterns are all part of their mating display. Each species of fireflies has a characteristic flash pattern that helps its male and female individuals recognize each other. No one knows for sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. It’s believed that the reason is that there’s competition between the males where they all want to be the first to flash. Another suggestion is that if all of the males flash together, they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make a comparison.
However, the fireflies do not always flash in unison. Sometimes they may flash in waves and at other times will flash randomly. They synchronous part usually occurs in short bursts that end with an abrupt period of darkness. Synchronous fireflies are very rare in the United States. The Great Smoky Mountains is the only place where they are found. The only other place in the world where you can find these magical beetles is the Southeast Asian Mangrove Forest.
For the best viewing of the fireflies, keep these tips in mind…
Flashlights disrupt the fireflies and impair people’s night vision. The light show is best when you:
• Cover your flashlight with red or blue cellophane.
• Use your flashlight only when walking to your viewing spot.
• Point your flashlight at the ground.
• Turn off your flashlight when you find your viewing spot.
You can also help protect the fireflies and their habitat:
• Do not catch the fireflies.
• Stay on the trail at all times.
• Pack out all of your garbage.
For more information on this amazing phenomenon, check out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Website.