Nature

Guest Post: The Western Hemisphere’s Largest Synchronous Firefly Emergence

By Doug and Nancy Piper

In an isolated part of the Great Smoky Mountains National park, scientists have discovered the western hemisphere’s largest emergence of synchronous fireflies (lightening bugs). It occurs about the first week of every June and only lasts for about one week. What’s unique about these fireflies is that they actually twinkle in unison. Not the random twinkling we’ve familiar with, but these little guys literally twinkle at almost exactly the same time.

This year’s event wasJune 2-3, 2016, and the closest town is Greenville, SC. To get our “ticket” my wife checked the www.recreation.gov website for weeks to reserve a campsite at the Elkmont campground which is within walking distance of the firefly show. It’s always a sellout, so you have to make your reservation early.

Elkmont Campsite D14
The Piper’s spot at the Elkmont Campground

The other option is to enter the www.recreation.gov ticket raffle for a seat on one of the trolleys that takes visitors from the Sugerlands visitors center. These sellout quickly too …so watch the site to get your seat.

Once you have a campsite, the rest is pretty easy. Just grab your lawn chair and head into the now abandoned group of homes once called the Appalachian Club. National Parks volunteers will direct you into the woods for you to sit and wait for the show to begin about 9:30PM (or whenever it gets good and dark). Etiquette is pretty strict; you must put red cellophane over all flashlights, etc (they provide the cellophane) and you’re expected to be still and quiet (that’s hard for a bunch of children and adults).

 

Campers Walking into the Woods Past the Trolleys to View the Fireflies
Campers Walking into the Woods Past the Trolleys to View the Fireflies

Beginning about 9:35 you’ll begin to see a few random fireflies blinking, but these little guys are not the ones you’re there to see. Wait about another 15-minutes for the rest of the fireflies emerge and begin a synchronized the lightshow. Before you know it; you’re surrounded by a low hanging “fog” of fireflies blinking simultaneously. It’s a fascinating lightshow to witness. All the bugs go dark for about three seconds, then suddenly, huge groups will blink simultaneously about 6-times. And then it repeats; over and over again. It’s the most amazing lightshow you’ll ever see (especially considering they’re bugs) and after seeing this, you’ll have to say that rivals the best stargazing you’ve ever seen.

I can’t recommend this enough. It is one of the most fascinating naturally occurring exhibitions you’ll ever see, plus the Elkmont campground is an awesome campground located in one of the most beautiful locations of the Smokies.

Waiting in the Woods for the Fireflies
Waiting in the Woods for the Fireflies