Firefly Lights Might Look Random But They Actually Follow A Specific Pattern

Whether you call them fireflies or lightning bugs, there is no denying that these insects are quite fascinating.

Even more fascinating is the fact that the flashing pattern for fireflies varies from bug to bug. It’s like a fingerprint.

With 2,000 species of fireflies flitting about, the possibilities for diversification is astronomical.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

To help you be able to identify which firefly is which, National Geographic put together a firefly viewing guide which uses different graphics to explain each pattern that is unique to each species of fireflies.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly enough, there are only 16 species of fireflies known to be able to synchronize their flashes with other insects.

In the Great Smoky Mountains there is one species of fireflies with this ability that have drawn curious tourists from far and wide to watch their incredible displays. National Geographic’s guide even shares with people where in the forest to find these insects.

Of course, tourism surrounding fireflies is not something that is just reserved for the US. There have been many Asian countries, such as China, Thailand, Korea, and Japan, which have welcomed tourists to come and observe firefly mating rituals. These displays would include the males buzzing around in the air, flashing their lights in hopes of getting the females to notice them.

Photo: photostockeditor

Firefly tourism is pretty popular that even in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there was a 20,000 person entry to a lottery in the late spring months to hopefully win one of 800 parking passes to the national park.

The idea would be that those lucky people can then set up their lawn chairs and wait for the show of thousands of Photinus carolinus flashing synchronized six-second strobes light up the evening sky. The males eventually stop their blinking in time for the females to pick a possible mate.

Photo: flickr/Frank Kehren

Speaking to The Guardian, one scientist admitted that the research still hasn’t fully grasped why or how they’re able to synchronize their flashes – a mystery that means many scientist are still trying to gather information on the entire firefly event.

As for the people who have been able to actually witness the event, one person said, “It is one of the most special experiences that you can have in the natural world… to be able to have this dazzling series of lights that then abruptly stop for eight seconds, it puts you in an almost magical type of environment.”

Did you know that about fireflies? Let us know!

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