Experience the fireflies in June

May 13, 2014
Photo by: Donated

What do Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Malaysian jungles have in common? Answer: the presence of synchronous fireflies. During the first weeks of June, an annual lightshow, put on by Mother Nature's night-lights, illuminate areas of the National Park. This year the nonprofit organization Discover Life in America is holding a number of events for the public to experience this natural wonder and learn more about the mystery behind the synchronous fireflies.

"We know of 19 species of fireflies — actually they're a unique group of beetles — currently inhabiting the park," said park curator Adriean Mayor. "There are 12 species that 'flash' and seven species with no 'flash'."

This "flashing" phenomenon is caused by a chemical reaction in the fireflies' lower abdominal organs called bioluminescence.

Why don't the fireflies in the backyard synchronize? What makes the fireflies in the park so special? All of these question and more will be answered by attending any of the following events:

From 7:30 to 11 p.m. June 10-11, DLIA is holding a fundraising event at Norton Creek Sanctuary near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. With exclusive access to the property and a firefly expert on site, visitors will be able to learn the answers to these questions while enjoying the amazing display first hand.

Heavy hors d'oeuvres and drinks will be provided, so come out and enjoy this nighttime picnic with the fireflies. There will be a short walk to the site; be prepared for possible inclement weather. Reservations are required; space is very limited. Call 865-430-4756 for tickets. The cost is $75 per person.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 11 the annual Firefly Festival will be held at the Nantahala Outdoor Center Great Outpost in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. A free event for the general public, there will be live music provided by Captain Firefly, artwork, an insect zoo, kid's activities and a secret bioluminescence room, along with local food and drink vendors. At 1 p.m. and again at 3 p.m., there will be a presentation on the synchronous firefly phenomenon in the Smokies.

Finally, from 7:30 to 11 p.m. June 12, the final firefly event will be held at the Park Grill After food and drink, along with a firefly presentation, participants will carpool to a secret site in the park. There will be a short hike involved; again, be prepared for inclement weather. Reservations are required; space is very limited. Call 865-430-4756 for tickets. The cost is $50 per person.
Join Discover Life in America at any of these events to learn about and experience the rare firefly phenomenon, unique to the Smoky Mountain National Park.

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