Study shows need for conservation to preserve vanishing fireflies

By Peter Kent

Child catching firefliesFireflies, an icon of Southern summers, are fewer and harder to find in some communities because of urban development and changes in forestry practices.

Results from a 2013 firefly count by Clemson scientists show there’s a steady glow in many parts of the state, but conservation efforts are needed.

“We definitely need to protect them before it is too late,” said biogeochemist Alex Chow, who launched the Vanishing Firefly Project with Clemson entomologist Juang-Horng “JC” Chong.

The goal of the program is to collect several years of data from different habitats across South Carolina and other states to determine the population trends of fireflies, often considered a bellwether for the environment.

Short-term results are encouraging. “It is too early to make a conclusion from one year of data,” Chow said. “However, this year’s data showed us many areas in South Carolina still have good population  of fireflies.”

The researchers are investigating the impacts of human activity on the abundance of fireflies. They are analyzing data for potential relationships between land-use patterns, soil quality and firefly abundance.

Because researchers cannot be physically present everywhere fireflies appear, they sought help from citizen-scientists.

In a June 1 statewide firefly survey, volunteers reported observations using the project web page or a wireless app produced by computer science associate professor Roy Pargas and graduate student Doug Edmonson.

Learn more about the Clemson Vanishing Firefly Project:

See firefly map:

For information: User Name, xxx-xxx-xxxx, ext. xxx,