Fireflies In The Great Smoky Mountains

Every state has fireflies.  We always called them lightening bugs when I was growing up. I don’t think I heard them called fireflies until I was probably an adult.  You know those little insects from the beetle family that come out when summer comes and they have a little light that flickers on and off.  For me and my brother Joe it wasn’t officially summer until we saw the first flicker of a lightening bug.  Of course we had to collect them and see who could get the most.  But we always let them go.  Our hands always smelled yucky after catching them!!!

Fireflies are found in all the U.S. States, but not all of the species glow.  Fireflies that glow are found in the eastern United States, if you live in the West, in states like Washington,  Oregon and California you probably won’t see fireflies or you won’t notice them because they don’t light up.

Firefly tourism? who would have ever thought?  But it has become a huge business.  Starting around the end of may to the first week of June of every year, the fireflies start a courtship.  It begins with a few electric lights in the woods and as the night wears on the lights from the fireflies blink in unison.  I have never seen it but I have heard it is really something to see.  This is a mating or courtship ritual for the fireflies.  Eventually during the night hundreds of thousands of fireflies will be blinking their “love lights” off and on.

Each year people from all over the world travel to the Smoky Mountains National Park to see this. Visitors actually have to win a lottery just for the privilege of watching this show.  During this time The National Park Service in the Smoky Mountains estimate about 1200 people a night are brought to the trails at the Elkmont Campground.  They take a trolly up to the trail to witness this amazing sight.

This year out of Coronavirus related caution, the National Park Service canceled the event.  They closed the campground area and barricaded the road that leads to it.

It’s not only in Tennessee. This has become quite a business that now brings in about 200,000 visitors annually.  Pennsylvania has the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival.  It was canceled this year as well.  There is a Firefly Festival in Dover Delaware. It has also been canceled.  Is this good or bad?  Bad for tourism I know but what about the fireflies?

Photo courtesy of


Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I know that many people will be disappointed, and it is devastation to tourism.  I am a tourism person. I know what this means, but listen:  Before one of these beetles goes into the mating ritual it spends a year or two as a larva burrowing through the dirt, this is why they smell so bad when you catch them in your hands.  People tramping through  the woods to see the firefly show are often oblivious to this.  They are squishing these beetles who may never have a chance to glow and mate, etc.  Also lights from flashlights and car beams can interfere with the mating ritual of these little light glowing beetles.  AHHHH privacy to glow as they want, mate as they want. There may be a baby boom next year, no people or lights to interfere.    Who or what could ask for more?

Just my thoughts.

Always remember

Love your day your way!!!


5 thoughts on “Fireflies In The Great Smoky Mountains

  1. Yes, As I was growing up, just as it starts getting dark, my brothers, sisters, and I would run around our front yard, collecting fireflies or lightning bugs. We would collect the lightning bugs in a mason jar and we would set them the nightstand next to our beds. Mostly green lights, but some yellow also. Thank you for sharing this great post! 🙂


  2. I loved them when I was a kid; June bugs, not so much. I bet you have them. I think we’re going to see a baby boom of many of nature’s creatures.


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