Researchers launch firefly watch program

By Alex Chow

Volunteers researching firefliesFireflies – an icon of South Carolina summers – are fewer and harder to find in some communities along the coast lately because of urban development and changes in forestry practices.

A field survey in May was conducted at Hobcaw Barony near Georgetown by entomologist Juang-Horng Chong and biosystems engineer Alex Chow. They enlisted the help of citizen scientists – including students from Georgetown High School and Waccamaw High School – to study the impacts of human activities and environmental factors on the abundance and distribution of fireflies.

The firefly watch program included an orientation, a daytime field survey and a nighttime field survey. The orientation included firefly biology, methods for firefly counting and identification, methods for soil and litter sampling, safety in the field, and environmental impacts from coastal developments. In the daytime field survey, volunteers visited the field survey sites to collect soil and litter samples. They returned at night to identify and count the fireflies. 

Clemson scientists will analyze the data collected for potential relationships between land use patterns, soil and litter quality, and firefly abundance. The long-term project will be recruiting volunteers again next spring.

 




For information: Dr. Alex Chow, 843-546-1013 ext. 232, achow@clemson.edu