How to Attract and Catch Fireflies
Few things are as magical in the summertime as watching fireflies light up sky. But with the numbers of fireflies dwindling, how can you enjoy the magic of summer while encouraging the firefly population? The steps to have a hospitable yard for fireflies are really quite simple.
Although experts don’t know for certain, they blame two main factors for dwindling firefly populations: development and light pollution. And while you can’t necessarily decrease urbanization of areas, you can make your yard more hospitable by establishing native plants.
Creating a Hospitable Environment for Fireflies
- Grow your lawn a little longer than normal or consider letting it get a little shaggy around the edges of your yard. Fireflies tend to rest on tall blades of grass during the day (females don’t fly, but males do), and will first make their appearances in those tall grassy areas at night.
- Plant native trees and flowers. Plant pine trees, but only if they are native to your area. Pine trees are the preferred habitat of fireflies. Their dense foliage layers block out light, and their dropped needles provide the perfect area for firefly larvae to thrive.
- Fireflies also eat pollen and nectar, so provide an array of sweet, blooming plants.
- Create a wood pile, or stack broken branches together in one area. Like other garden critters, fireflies like to lay eggs on rotting wood. The rotting wood increases humidity and increases the likelihood of the presence of larvae prey, such as snails, slugs, and worms. Place the wood pile in loose stacks in a naturally dark area, such as under trees.
- Install a small pond, birdbath, or other type of water feature. Fireflies love moisture and tend to live and mate near streams or other areas with high humidity.
- Limit artificial lighting at night. Bright outdoor lighting disturbs the mating habits of fireflies. Male fireflies emit specific patterns to let the females know where they are, females signal back if they are interested in mating. If outdoor lighting is too bright, fireflies can’t accurately see potential suitors.
- Avoid using pesticides and other chemicals in your garden. If the chemical doesn’t kill the fireflies, the scent may deter them from inhabiting your yard.
How to Catch and Release Fireflies
While it might be tempting to try and collect fireflies in a jar, you may accidentally kill them, or at the very least traumatize them. It’s best to enjoy fireflies from afar unless you follow specific instructions.
- Prepare a clear jar with a crumpled, moistened paper towel, or a dampened unbleached coffee filter. The damp towel keeps the area inside the jar humid, making it easier for fireflies to breath, and crumpling the paper gives the fireflies an area to hide.
- Pierce the lid with plenty of small holes to allow air and circulation.
- Insert an apple slice into the jar. This helps increase the humidity and also gives the firefly something to drink from.
- Cover your flashlight with a blue piece of plastic. Fireflies aren’t disoriented by blue light like they are other light colors.
- Imitate the firefly flashing patterns by pointing your flashlight up and then down. Don’t ever flash a light directly at a firefly though, it is likely to startle them and scare them away.
- Catch fireflies carefully with a net, and carefully place them in a clear jar with a pierced lid. It may be easier to work in pairs, one person holding the net while the other person holds and jar.
- Feel free to observe the jar with fireflies, but only keep them for a day or two. Release them into your yard at night when they are most active and when they are less likely to encounter predators.
Although fireflies like long blades of grass, be aware that ticks are also attracted to this area. So, make sure to keep yourself and your children out of the tall grass as much as possible.
Beware that mosquitos are also attracted to standing water. Consider introducing frogs, toads, or tadpoles to your water feature, as they are natural predators of mosquitos.