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.

2 Responses

  1. Monika Maeckle
    | Reply

    It’s a brutal drought here, Ann. You’re making me have butterfly envy. Thanks for writing.

  2. Ann Rogerson Weaver
    | Reply

    Everyone loves fireflies and every child should experience catching a few in a jar (to be released later, course). I’m on my second round of swallowtail butterflies right now. Slow this year. We are dry here in NC, too, but not as bad as in TX.

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