Where Have All the Fireflies Gone? And How to Bring Them Back

June 23, 2020 at 7:40 pm

Fireflies have disappeared from most manicured American yards… all we have to do to bring them back is let them get a little messy.


“Where have all the fireflies gone?” retired entomology professor and nature writer Gary Noel Ross asked himself as his woodland home became surrounded by more and more housing tracts and fewer and fewer trees in the 1980s.

Since then, he’s been working on creating a safe haven for fireflies and pollinators on his one-acre property, which is a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

In an article for Grit.com, he shares all he’s learned about bringing back the fireflies and all their twinkling nostalgia.

As the manicured lawns, golf courses and playgrounds of have suburbia spread, the fireflies have headed for the hills, Ross says.

“Making matters worse, fireflies and other insects on the wing at dusk are sensitive to the toxic sprays administered by mosquito abatement programs.”

RELATED: Light Pollution is Pushing Fireflies to Brink of Extinction, Study Finds

In his neighborhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the fireflies that twinkled like a million tiny stars have all but disappeared, except in Ross’s yard:

“Designed with a wealth of trees, shrubs, and heavy ground cover — a vigorous vine called Asiatic jasmine— my de facto woodland is shaded but accented with a formal sun-drenched garden featuring seasonal flowers noted for attracting pollinators.

Ross tips for creating a firefly-friendly yard:

1. Location. If you’re considering a new residence, select property that’s close to a natural, wooded area.

2. Plant trees. If you’re not in a wooded area, select a large area and plant deciduous (broadleaf) trees and bushes to create completely shaded ground.

3. Ground Cover. Install thick ground cover, such as an evergreen ivy or Asiatic jasmine.

4. Stop Raking Leaves. Don’t rake fallen leaves in autumn, but instead allow them to decay so they add humus to the soil.

5. Don’t use pesticides.

6. Water. Water your newly planted trees and ground cover until they are well established, and thick enough to retain water on their own.

7. Flowers. Plant flowers close to the shaded venue with heirloom or native species that attract pollinators.

8. Keep it messy. Let your yard get messy, at least in some places.

Fireflies lay as many as 500 eggs in low, shaded vegetation, atop ground litter, loose soil or rotting logs.

“Fireflies were concentrated in the darkest and most heavily vegetated sections of my landscape and not in the open and more illuminated flower garden,” Ross adds.

8. Patience. Years may pass before an adventuresome female firefly locates your landscape.

“Remember that adult fireflies don’t fly far from their breeding grounds and require a full year in an undisturbed area to complete their complicated life cycle.”

Don’t forget a mason jar for catching them (and then setting them free of course)!