Discovery of rare synchronous fireflies gives town a needed tourism boost

It all started as these stories sometimes do, by chance.

“We didn’t know they were owned,” said Peggy Butler, along with her husband Ken, in a country house on the edge of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest.

One day, a group of campers from the area excitedly told them about something they had seen late at night.

“They were looking out of their tent and they saw all these fireflies shining at the same time,” Peggy said. “And they thought, ‘Well, that’s interesting! Is that something special?'”

Peggy and Ken had no idea.

“We didn’t know anything about fireflies at the time,” he said.

So they investigated and eventually invited a group of scientists to their property to study the phenomenon.

It was something really special.

“They probably discovered that they were known as synchronous fireflies,” Peggy said. “And, at the time, they were thought to exist only in the Smoky Mountains National Park.”

However, they were there, in a rural Forest County in Pennsylvania.

Fireflies are unusual because they shine the lights in sync with each other, creating a dazzling display.

It was a potential attraction in an area in great need of economic impetus.

“Per capita income is the lowest in Pennsylvania and one of the lowest in the country,” Peggy said.

A decade ago, they decided to launch a small festival called Pennsylvania Firefly Festival to celebrate the synchronous firefly and the 15 other firefly species found in it.

“We couldn’t have imagined that people would be so serious,” Peggy said.


Hundreds of first visitors arrived and made their way up from there.

“We gathered a thousand people for one night for the festival,” Peggy said. “We were overwhelmed.”

Fireflies too.

“We came to know later that we were also harming fireflies,” Ken Butler said.

That was a problem according to Sara Lewis Tufts University biology professor and firefighter expert.

“The stars of the show are really fragile,” he said.

Lewis added that successful ecotourism requires maintaining a careful balance.

“They don’t even realize it, but they’re stepping on the young stages of the firefly’s life cycle,” Lewis said. “And turning off the lights and letting people know what they can do by being careful where they walk, staying on designated paths, makes a huge difference in the firefly population.”

That’s what Butlers did, innovating everything about the festival to better protect fireflies. With a two-year life cycle – and no festivals held during COVID in 2020 – this year’s number of fireflies is at an all-time high.

“You have to be careful to shine on the ground. They’re creating women or men, ”said Kate Zellers, a fellow at the festival. “It’s just awesome.”

The festival now limits how many people can attend and requires advanced online registration for visitors far away from India and Vietnam.

“We did some surveys to see how much money people were spending,” Ken Butler said, “and we thought it was probably around $ 50,000 locally.”

It’s a big impact as a result of a small flaw, whose night flights provide a light show like no other.

“It feels supernatural. It feels spiritual, it feels clean, “Kate said.” Another reason is to work with nature and not against it. “

They are now working together to ensure that these insects, which have their own brilliance, continue to give a great show.

Experts say there are more than 170 species of fireflies in the U.S. alone. Contrary to popular belief, they can be found in every state in the nation.

To protect fireflies in the area where you live, experts recommend turning off lights outside at night, as these lights can interfere with the ability of fireflies to find each other.

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Discovery of rare synchronous fireflies gives town a needed tourism boost Source link Discovery of rare synchronous fireflies gives town a needed tourism boost

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