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Fireflies definitely bring out the kid in us. And you'll find some rare species in the Blue Ridge and the Great Smoky Mountains, but they only come out for a short visit! Fireflies (also called lightning bugs) are beetles. They take one to two years to mature from larvae but will live as adults for only about 21 days. While in the larval stage, the insects feed on snails and smaller insects. Once they transform into their adult form, they do not eat. Their light patterns are part of their romantic mating display.

Synchronous Fireflies

Great Smoky Mountains 
Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns. The Great Smoky Mountains is one of the few places in the world to see synchronous fireflies, and people flock here from all over the country to see them for a couple of weeks in late May or early June. The season varies a little depending on weather conditions.  

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest
Another recently discovered spot to watch synchronized fireflies is deep in the Nantahala National Forest at Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in Graham County. They typically appear between late May and mid-June. Watch them from dusk until about 11 PM. If the moon is bright, the show will be delayed 30 minutes or so. On cool nights (below 50 degrees) and on misty evenings following rain, the flashing may be greatly reduced or altogether absent. Arrive before sunset and bring a flashlight covered with blue or red cellophane in order to retain your night vision. Walk up the trail to a bench and watch the woods light up. You can also watch the blue ghost fireflies here in June. Read more about Joyce Kilmer Forest.

Blue Ghost Fireflies in DuPont Forest

Blue Ghost Fireflies

For just a couple of weeks a year, the enchanting blue ghost fireflies (Phausis reticulate) make their appearance in several valley areas near Asheville. They are different from other fireflies since their light stays on constantly and they fly just above the forest floor. It's a romantic story! According to Brevard College Professor Dr. Jennifer Frick-Ruppert, "the males are small with black elytra and brownish wings, about 1/4-inch in length and delicate. Females are flightless and grub-like. They do not flash. Instead, they glow constantly with dim bluish-white light, drifting silently just inches off the ground. With hundreds of thousands of these fireflies meandering aglow over the dark forest floor, the ground itself seems eerily adrift."

Cradle of Forestry Blue Ghost Firefly Twilight Tours 
Late May-June: A Blue Ghosts Firefly guided twilight tour at Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest. $50/Adult, $25/Youth 4-12. Ticket purchase and pre-registration is required Get more info & register online.

Nature For My Soul Firefly Tours
See the enchanting Blue Ghost fireflies on this unique tour happening just two weeks during the month of May. Walking tours include small group activities, learning about the natural history of fireflies in these mountains, and the magical experience of seeing the light natural light show! Go to their website for info and tickets.

Blue Ghost or Synchronous Guided Tours from Asheville 
Join Asheville Hiking Tours for a nighttime hike with viewings of Blue Ghost Fireflies! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that guests describe as “magical and unforgettable.”  They discuss the biology and conservation of this unique species. MThey offer only a handful of Firefly Tours each year, so don’t wait to book your ticket.  Go to their website for info and tickets.


Photos by the very talented Spencer Black from Asheville!

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