How to Attract Fireflies for Hours of Night Time Fun!

When I was growing up, summer nights were a magical time. We ran free for hours after the sun went down, catching toads and chasing fireflies. While I have figured out how to attract toads to my yard, my backyard is relatively devoid of fireflies. I have been wondering how to attract fireflies to my outdoor space and thought I would share my research. Attracting fireflies is a great way to entertain kids after dark. And adults, too!

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How to Attract Fireflies to Your Yard for Hours of Night Time Fun

What are fireflies?

Okay, so what are fireflies, exactly? Other than cute little glowing bugs that entertain us on hot, summer nights? Fire flies are soft bodied winged beetles. Both the winged male and the flightless female have luminescent organs. The light is mainly produced as a signal between the sexes. They are also called lightening bugs.

5 things you didn’t know about lightning bugs

  • There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies and only some of them have the ability to glow. The ones that DO glow do not live on the West Coast. So, if you grew up in California, you probably didn’t catch fireflies at night!
  • The light produced by lightening bugs is the most efficient light ever made. Almost 100 percent of the energy in the chemical reaction is emitted as light. Wish we could harness that efficiency!
  • Each species has a specific pattern of light flashing. Isn’t that cool? They will only answer to their own species.
  • The light produced by lightening bugs comes in yellow, light red, green and orange.
  • Firefly blood contains lucibufagins, which is a defensive steroid that tastes really gross. This helps protect them from predators!

firefly on a finger

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How to Attract Fireflies:

Where Do Fireflies Live

So, you want to know how to attract fireflies to your yard, right? But, where do fireflies live? How do you make your yard attractive to assorted lightening bug species? Fireflies live in various habitats, including forests, fields, and suburban back yards.

Most firefly species have one thing in common: standing water. That includes ponds, streams, marshes, rivers and lakes. They really don’t need much water to get by! They love humid, warm environments so summer nights are perfect weather for them. So, since you can’t control the weather, what can you do to attract lightening bugs to your yard? Here are a few tips:

  • Keep the grass in certain areas unmowed. They really love long grass for hiding in. Make a wild section of the yard that stays undisturbed over the summer.
  • Put in a water feature. You can put in a whiskey barrel water fountain or just a decorative bird bath. Just make sure to keep the water topped off to attract fireflies.
  • Let your leaf litter lie as mulch. Scientists are not quite sure what fireflies eat but suspect it includes other insects and insect larvae, slugs and snails. These types of firefly food thrive in leafy underbrush areas.
  • Ditch the insecticides. Use only organic gardening techniques to reduce the chemical load in your yard. Check out my post on how to attract beneficial insects for more information. You can keep your yard bug free without pesticides.
  • Turn off your outdoor lights at night. The artificial light messes with their natural lightening patterns and mating.

firefly on orange flowers

Plants that Attract Fireflies

So, you want more fireflies in your yard, right? What plants do fireflies like? Basically, they really love anything that flowers. Scientists think that pollen is a major food source for these nocturnal bugs. Planting flowers of any sort will help provide them with a natural food source.

Planting native trees—especially pine trees—helps fireflies in a couple of ways: Pines have thick canopies that block out artificial light that could interfere with mating. Also, the needles and branches drop to the ground to create the ideal spot for larvae to live beneath the tree.

Fireflies are amazing creatures and the beauty of their flashing lights can entertain us for hours. Just remember, if you want to catch fireflies, please only keep them for a short time in the jar to observe them and let them go ASAP. They will die in there and all they really wanted to do was to find a mate!

Now that you know how to attract fireflies, just turn off your porch light and enjoy the show! Will you be catching fireflies this summer?

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