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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bright Voices of the Allegheny National Forest

 March 03, 2013
By Laurie Barr

Fireflies, like honeybees and butterflies have four stages in their lifecycles. These include egg, larva, pupa and adult. This remarkable lifecycle is called “complete metamorphosis.”  Fireflies, honeybees and butterflies have something else in common; they use unique visual communication to convey ideas and information.

Honeybees communicate by "dancing.” Worker bees collect nectar and pollen and then return to the colony and perform a dance to tell the other bees where they have been and where they may go to collect nectar and pollen. Butterflies communicate with each other by using special flutter and flight patterns. The male butterfly will attract a female by performing a "courtship dance” and if a female is interested she will join him. Their “voices” are their unique and elaborate dances.

Unlike bees and butterflies, which are active during the day, fireflies communicate with each other and attract their mates by creating their own light after the sun goes down. Their messages, written in light reach out to each other and also deliver information. Their bright voices communicate not only with each other, but also to the world with clues to the health of their forest habitat.

Each stage of the firefly metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa and adult, depends on a healthy environment. However their remarkably beautiful form of communication during their mating ritual involves a language of their own and requires darkness.

In the Allegheny National Forest a remarkably rare population of fireflies which communicates by performing in an amazing dance of bioluminescence en masse and in synchronicity were discovered.

The Allegheny Defense Project (ADP) recently announced in their January 2013 newsletter, The Hellbender Digest; “Synchronous Fireflies Confirmed in the Allegheny National Forest” after an international team of biologists were invited to the area of the ANF where these rare fireflies were discovered, near the Black Caddis Ranch Bed and Breakfast, in Kelletville, PA. Close to where the ADP members first observed the synchronous fireflies.

The research shed light on one of the greatest “wonders of nature” the ANF has to offer. The ANF is one of only a few places on earth to host this spectacular natural synchronous light show. The team of international researchers confirmed the population of rare synchronous fireflies in the ANF by performing field studies, flash timings, microscopic exams and DNA analysis. There are other confirmed populations of synchronous fireflies in the Great Smokey Mountains and in Southeast Asia. The researchers; members of the ”FIRE” (Firefly International Research and Education) team, studied the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Photinus carolinus populations and confirmed  this inspiring ritual. A “True Wonder of Nature.” The phenomenon attracts thousands of tourists annually to the Great Smoky Mountains who come armed with blankets and lawn chairs to view this inspiring and  spectacular display. Preservation of the darkness of their habitat is fundamental, not only to the species survival, but also to ensure the spectacular display of light will entertain generations to come.

Their inclusive message, their brilliant behavior, their bright voices of the Allegheny National Forest, are far too important to ignore.

Discovering and learning about the lifecycles and habitat of these amazing fireflies can be  fun for the entire family!

The “First Annual PA Firefly Festival” will take place June 21-23 kicking off at the Black Caddis Ranch B&B in Kellettville, PA. Family friendly activities will be planned throughout the weekend!

Friday and Saturday nights the fireflies will provide the spectacular entertainment!

Visit  PA Firefly Festival blog spot at, for updates and information on lodging and event schedule.
Visit the Allegheny Defense Project at to learn more about the fireflies of the Allegheny National Forest.

field study

Great Smokey Mountains

Smoky Mountains National Park Photinus carolinus populations.

synchronous fireflies in ANF

True Wonder of Nature
The January issue of the Allegheny Defense Project’s newsletter