Firefly Identification

There are about 5 subfamilies of fireflies in the world. There are about 2,000 species in the world and about 150 species in North America.
At least 22 species are known to occur in South Carolina:

Ellychnia corrusca complex (multiple species possible in this group) – Diurnal firefly
Lucidota atra – Black firefly
Lucidota punctata – Punctate firefly
Phausis reticulate – Blue ghost firefly
Photinus ardens – (no common name)
Photinus carolinus – Synchronous firefly
Photinus consanguineus – (no common name)
Photinus consimilis – (no common name)
Photinus indictus – (no common name)
Photinus marginellus complex (multiple species possible) – Marginellus firefly
Photinus pyralis – Pyralis firefly, common eastern firefly, Big Dipper firefly
Photinus umbratus – (no common name)
Photuris congener – (no common name)
Photuris frontalis – (no common name)
Photuris lineaticollis – (no common name)
Photuris pennsylvanica – Pennsylvania firefly
Photuris versicolor – (no common name)
Pyractonema angulata – Say’s firefly
Pyractonema borealis – Boreal firefly
Pyractonema limbicollis – (no common name)
Pyractonema similes – (no common name)
Pyropyga minuta – (no common name)

**species in bold are those found in South Carolina


Photinus, Photuris and Pyractonema are the three most common genera in coastal South Carolina. The genera and species can be distinguished by their highly specialized flashing patterns.

Photinus: usually make yellowish flashing with a single flash over several seconds, a double-flash within a second, or multiple flashes within 1-2 second.

Those with a single flash over several seconds include:
    Photinus marginellus: a 0.3-second flash every 3 seconds
    Photinus pyralis: a 1-second J-shaped flash path
    Photinus umbratus: a 0.5-second flash every 7 seconds

Those with double flashes within a second:
    Photinus consanguineus: two short 0.3-second flashes within 1 second, then repeat after 5 seconds

Those with multiple flashes within 1-2 second include:
    Photinus ardens: two 0.5-second flashes within 2 seconds, then repeat after 10-20 seconds
    Photinus consimilis: 3-4 short flashes in 2 seconds, then repeat after 15 seconds
    Photinus carolinus: 4-8 short flashes in 2 seconds, then repeat after 14 seconds
Photuris: usually make greenish flashing
    Photuris pennsylvanica: a short (0.25 second) followed by a long (2.5 second) flash 7 seconds later
    Photuris versicolor: 2-5 short flashes within 2 seconds, then repeat every 5-10 seconds

Pyractonema: usually make amber colored flash patterns
    Pyractonema angulata: 8-10 short, quick flashes within a second, then repeat after 3 seconds
    Pyractonema borealis: 4-5 short flashes within a second, then repeat after 3-4 seconds