Lightning bugs lighting up Columbia, SC

Fireflies in action | Photo via @tracyamartin1971

As summer winds down in the Midlands, so does the season for fireflies. To help us bid both the season and these iconic insects adieu, today we’re looking at some stats + facts about these luminous lightning bugs and where to spot them locally. 

What are they?

Fireflies are neither bugs nor flies, but rather soft-bellied beetles whose lower bodies light up from a chemical reaction. This kind of light production is known as bioluminescence

There are around 2,000 firefly species on the planet, and only 3 species of synchronous fireflies in North America  — making them a rare sight to see. The synchronous lightning bugs are 1 of the most popular of the species and draw a crowd every year when they land at Congaree National Park

Why do fireflies glow? 

While some think fireflies light up as a defense mechanism intended to warn predators that they taste bad and will leave a bad taste in a predator’s mouth, the primary reason they light up is to attract mates (can you blame them?)

Each species lights up differently. Some glow rather than flash. Those that flash can have different flash sequences, while others flash in unison

Other than beauty, what is their function?

Fireflies provide food for other creatures. Firefly larvae, known as glow worms (not to be confused with Glo Worms), are specialized predators that feed on insects on the forest floor that would otherwise come for these flashy invertebrates.

Where can you see them in Columbia?

Every year, Congaree National Park hosts synchronous fireflies viewing events for approx. 2 weeks between mid-May and mid-June. The national park has shared details of how the event has changed over the years, dating back to 2014. 

You can also catch the Fireflies (Columbia’s MiLB baseball team) in the final home game series this weekend at Segra Park. There will be games Friday-Sunday and tickets are still available.