Firefly Survey: Looking for Citizen Scientists

I am a HUGE fan of citizen science projects…. real science experiments that ordinary citizens participate in, whether gathering data (Project feederwatch, Frogwatch, Phytoplankton Monitoring) or actually intervening with a permit (Dewees Sea Turtle Program.)  Here’s a new one– counting fireflies.  And YOU can help on Friday night, May 27th!  Simply go outside and count how many you see for one minute between 8:15 and 10:15 p.m.

Firefly photo from

Fireflies evoke a magical memory of childhood for many of us, those twinkling denizens of the edges of fields and forests… capturing them gently, keeping them in a jar with holes in the lid, releasing them with reluctance and whispers of more summer nights.  And there is a bunch of anecdotal information that suggests that fireflies are much fewer and farther between than when we were kids. Today’s Post and Courier article  suggests some possible reasons for this decline:

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are luminescent beetles, the magic creatures of childhood. Generation after generation of kids have popped air holes in jar lids to capture them. Overall, the beetles are considered to be in a long decline because of:

–Development of the moist forest-edge grassland habitats where they thrive.

–Artificial-light pollution that disrupts their reproduction because they light up to attract mates.

–The use of fertilizers and mowers on suburban lawns.

Clemson University will be collecting the data; here is a link to their site with all the information you might want about fireflies.

Procedure for the Survey

  • You will enter your information into the online survey form page at this link
  • Survey information should be from counts done on May 27th ONLY, from 8:15pm – 10:15pm
  • Turn out all lights for at least one minute before counting (i.e. houselights, flashlights, headlights, etc.)
  • Count the number of fireflies you see within 1 minute
  • Please enter your observation by June 1. Results will be published on this web site on June 5.
  • It is important to report your results even if no fireflies are observed.  Your input is very useful to determine the land use on the occurrence and population of firefly.
  • Below is the information you will record and enter into the online survey form
  1. Street Name
  2. City
  3. Zip Code
  4. Where did you see the fireflies?

Home lawn and gardens
Wood bordering lawn and garden
Others (please specify)

5.  How many fireflies did you count within one minute?
6.  Other Comments

Leave a Reply