No Fireworks this Fourth of July, But How About Those Synchronous Fireflies?

In our part of the world, drought and wildfires have hindered butterfly season as well as Fourth of July celebrations.  The Austin Butterfly Forum announced at their June meeting that their recent butterfly count was the bleakest ever.  ”We had 25 species and 26 people, compared to the usual 40 or so,” said Dr. Dan Hardy, program chair of the event.  ”We’re just waiting out the weather.”

Eastern Swallowtail Hatches in June after forming chrysalis in October the prior year

This Eastern Swallowtail hatched this week after nine months as a chrysalis

Cities and counties from Austin to San Antonio and well into the Texas Hill Country–the collective place we think of as the Texas Butterfly Ranch–have declared fireworks and burn bans this season.    Rain will come, but until then we must lay low, minding our watering schedules, celebrating the occasional Swallowtail (the one picture here hatched this week, after “overwintering” since October!), and keeping our fingers crossed that a hurricane system will restore the water tables in time for the Monarch migration this fall.

Take a look.   They’re not Christmas lights.  They’re fireflies.

Given the circumstances, this is a year to celebrate Independence Day with some natural fireworks like those featured in a recent New York Times story on the synchronous fireflies of the Great Smoky Mountains.  Apparently the males of this particular species blink their lights in unison every evening for two weeks in June to make it easy for the females to find them. The boasting boy insects exist only in Southeastern Asia and the southern U.S.

Happy Fourth of July and enjoy the show.