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Firefly numbers on the rise this summer

Flickr User Katja Schulz

Whether you call it a lightning bug or a firefly -- or perhaps by its scientific name, Lampyridae -- chances are you’ve had some experience with the tiny flying insect that flashes and blinks its way through summer evenings.

And as Sara Lewis notes, astute watchers are noticing even more fireflies this summer than previous years.

“A lot of people are enjoying it and I’m thrilled that people are enjoying it. And as firefly scientists we’re just trying to understand it,” says Lewis, an evolutionary biologist at Tufts University in Boston. She also wrote the book "Silent Sparks, the Wondrous Life Fireflies."

She says the first thing you have to know about fireflies is that they live underground for two years, as eggs and then juveniles. And they love wet conditions, like those in the spring of 2017.

“Those were great conditions for baby fireflies, called larvae, because they live underground and they feed on earthworms and snails and slugs. And so those wet conditions mean that more larvae are surviving to eventually turn into adults.”

But Lewis also explained that despite the surge in population in certain regions this summer, fireflies around the world are in decline. One of the greatest threats is light pollution.

“You know that fireflies use bioluminescent signals to find and attract their mates. And when there is a lot of artificial light it’s harder for them to see each other’s signals; it's harder for them to find mates.”

Some species of fireflies are also victims of habitat loss due to development and climate change.