6 Ways to Help Fireflies

01
of 07

Are Firefly Populations in Decline?

Fireflies flashing at dusk.
Is your yard a good habitat for fireflies?. Flickr user s58y CC license

Firefly populations seem to be dwindling worldwide. Scientists attending an international conference on firefly conservation in 2008 shared alarming data. In one area of Thailand, firefly numbers dropped 70% in just 3 years. Ask anyone who's been around a few decades whether they see as many fireflies now as they did when they were kids, and without exception the answer is no.

Fireflies are sensitive to habitat disturbances. Fireflies need meadows and streamsides, not cul-de-sac developments of manicured lawns and well-lit landscapes. But all is not lost! Here are 6 ways you can help fireflies.

 

02
of 07

Don't use chemical fertilizers on your lawn or in your garden.

Man spreading fertilizer.
Chemical fertilizers are good for your lawn, but not so good for fireflies. Getty Images/E+/Bill Grove

We see fireflies as adults, flashing signals to each other across our backyards. Most people don't realize that firefly eggs and larvae live in the soil, just below the surface. Chemical fertilizers add salts to the soil, and those salts can be deadly for developing firefly eggs and larvae. Even worse, firefly larvae feed on soil-dwelling organisms like slugs and worms. Just think – the worms eat the chemical-laden soil, and the firefly larvae eat the worms. That can't be good for fireflies.

 

03
of 07

Minimize your use of pesticides.

Man spraying pesticides.
Broad spectrum pesticides may be harmful to beneficial insects. Getty Images/Brand X Pictures/Huntstock

Fireflies are insects, after all, and any broad-spectrum pesticides you use can impact them adversely.  Whenever possible, use horticultural oils or soaps, which can only harm fireflies if you happen to spray a firefly directly with the product. Choose pesticides that treat specific pest problems, like Bt, a naturally-occurring bacteria that can be used to treat caterpillar pests.

 

04
of 07

Keep lawn mowing to a minimum.

Man mowing lawn.
Mowed lawns are not good habitat for fireflies. Getty Images/Moment/Billy Currie Photography

Enough with the perfectly manicured lawn! Although you might not see them, fireflies spend the day resting among the blades of grass. The more you mow, the less inviting your lawn is for fireflies. If you have the space, consider letting an area of your lawn grow long. You'd be surprised what a little meadow can do for wildlife, especially fireflies. 

05
of 07

Add trees and shrubs to your landscape, and leave some leaves on the ground.

Wet leaves on the ground.
Leaf litter keeps the soil moist, just the way fireflies like it. Flickr user Stewart Black (CC license by )

Homes in newer developments seem to be surrounded by lots of lawn, dotted with a few evergreen shrubs and a tree or two, and entirely devoid of leaf litter.  Fireflies need places to hide and perch, and require a moist habitat. Firefly larvae feed on slugs, snails, worms, and other critters that like it damp. Leave some leaf litter or other garden debris on the ground, which will keep the soil beneath it damp and dark. Plant an area with trees and shrubs to give adult fireflies a place to perch.

 

06
of 07

Turn off your outdoor lights during firefly season.

Suburban home illuminated at night.
Artificial lighting makes it hard for fireflies to communicate and find mates. Getty Images/E+/M. Eric Honeycutt

Scientists suspect that artificial lighting may interfere with firefly mating. Fireflies flash to attract and locate mates. Porch lights, landscape lighting, and even street lights can make it difficult for fireflies to find each other. Fireflies are most active from dusk to midnight, so at the very least, minimize your use of outdoor lights during that time period. Consider using motion-activated lights (you'll save energy, too!). Use landscape lighting that is low to the ground, and direct the light straight up or down rather than broadcasting light across your yard.

 

07
of 07

Install a water feature.

Backyard pond.
A small water feature creates a moist habitat for fireflies. Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley/Brian North

Most fireflies live along streamsides or marshes, and prefer an environment with standing water. If you can, install a pond or stream feature in your yard. Again, firefly larvae feed on moisture-loving creatures like snails. If you can't add a full water feature, keep an area of your yard well-watered, or create a small depression that will stay moist. 

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Hadley, Debbie. "6 Ways to Help Fireflies." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/simple-ways-to-help-fireflies-1968151. Hadley, Debbie. (2017, March 3). 6 Ways to Help Fireflies. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/simple-ways-to-help-fireflies-1968151 Hadley, Debbie. "6 Ways to Help Fireflies." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/simple-ways-to-help-fireflies-1968151 (accessed January 23, 2018).