Every year in late May or early June, synchronous fireflies (scientific name: Photinus carolinus) put on a show in the Great Smoky Mountains, most specifically in Elkmont Campground in Tennessee, drawing a crowd from around the world.
These are no ordinary fireflies, and this is not an ordinary crowd. The Smokies is one of the only places in the world where you can find them.
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Synchronous fireflies are different because they flash their lights in unison, creating a mesmerizing light show. It’s completely dark, and then the males all start flashing their lights for a few minutes, trying to attract mates. They all stop at the same time. And then they start again.
The crowd that comes to sit in the darkness of the forest to watch is selected by a lottery that almost 29,000 people entered last year. Each night of the season, 1,000 people ride shuttles that take them to a viewing area in the forest.
But this year, safety concerns don’t permit so many people to gather in that space.
So the mass viewing event isn’t going to take place.
However, Discover Life in America is presenting a Virtual Fireflies Event.
The event will take place on YouTube on Monday, June 1st, 2020, at 7:00 PM (CT). It’s free to watch, but a donation of $5 is appreciated.
The event starts with a short presentation about fireflies by Discover Life in America’s Director of Science and Research, Dr. Will Kuhn. Then it will be followed by firefly footage by firefly photographer and cinematographer Radim Schrieber.
The display will include the synchronous fireflies, as well as “blue ghosts” (phausis reticulata) and other firefy species native to the Smokies region, set to the relaxing sounds of nature.
Dr. Kuhn and other DLiA staff will be answering questions in the comments section of YouTube during the event.
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