Every June, a unique phenomenon occurs in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Sychronous Fireflies!
There are 14 different species of fireflies in the Park, but only one provides a stunning light show every year in mid-June for about 2 weeks. The Synchronous Firefly (Photinus carolinus) is the only species in North America whose individuals have the ability to flash in unison. The only other place in the world you can see this unique display is Southeast Asia.
Fireflies emit light to attract a mate. In most species of firefly, both males and females are capable of flashing. Each species has its own “flash-code” to help males find females of the their same species with which to mate. How and why these fireflies are able to flash synchronously is a more complicated question. Several researchers have studied these beetles in search of an answer. UConn researcher Andrew Moiseff has been trying to Unravel the Mystery of the Fireflies’ Flash for years. No one knows for sure why they flash together, but it is likely related to competion among males.
Viewing the Light Show!
There are lots of places to view the light show in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park. According to Discover Life in America, these fireflies are found in every watershed in the park. The best places to view them are at the edges of moist wooded areas. The display starts at full dark, usually around 9:30 and lasts until about midnight.
One of the best places to see light show is at Elkmont Campground. From June 4-12, the road to Elkmont will be closed from 5 pm until midnight, but you can park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and take a Trolley to Elkmont for $1 round trip. Contact the Park for more information: 1-865-436-1200.
Fire Fly Ettiquette
- Please use your flashlight as little as possible and cover it with blue or red cellophane -this light is not as bright and won’t disrupt the show for others.
- Do not catch the fireflies; just like all other wildlife in the park, they are protected!
- Stay on the trail.
- Take your trash with you out of the Park.
Hope you are able to visit us in the Smokies this June and experience this natural wonder firsthand!
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