Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Nature's Night Lights

When I was a kid, one of my favorite summer time activities (besides fishing, of course) was to catch fireflies in the early evening.  I would spend as much time as it took to collect a full jar of them to make a latern.  As I have grown older my fascination for them has only gotten stronger and now I share this wonder with my daughters.  Bella, over the last few summers, has become very adept at catching them and gets very excited when they come out.  Over the last few years I have become interested in Phenology, which is the study of  periodic animal and plant life cycles (times of first or last occurrences or blooming in a season).  Keeping a running journal of certain events has led me to be able to predict some events such as the first appearance of fireflies.  Generally the first time I see any is around June tenth.  This year they are a couple of days early as they put on their first night time displays last night. 

Consciously or sub-consciously many of us practise phenology.  Many anglers know that when the water reaches a certain temperature or a specific hatch is on they trout will be in a feeding mood or that August will bring the arrival of snappers (baby bluefish) into the harbors and tidal creeks here on Long Island to feed on small bait fish.  When we see one sign such as a change in weather or a specific movement of animals we know what to expect next.  This may not be as critical to us as it was our ancestors, whose lives depended on that information for survival, but it is still very useful today.  Understanding these patterns and changes to them will help us to make more informed decisions about how best to live on this planet and preserve it for our children.  Knowing the exact day fireflies should appear will probably not make a huge difference to most people in the grand scheme of things but it will let me know that I need to be ready to reintroduce one of those great summer evening activities to my kids that will make memories that will last their whole lives.


  1. Loved this...fireflies were my favorite part of childhood summers too. Sadly, I don't have many up in the mountains now, and I miss them. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks!

  2. e.m.b., your welcome and thanks. Now that I have kids I get to enjoy reliving part of my childhood. Form a biological point of view, they are right up there with brook trout and many stream-side animals when it comes to fascination.

  3. Really nice post. I'm glad Bella is becoming a pro firefly catcher...I used to have a blast catching them as a kid in northern Minnesota.

  4. Wow, does that take me back a good while.
    Some advice to give to Bella.
    This was told to me when I was a youngster.
    One firefly is beautiful, two of them can give you a shock.

    Thanks for taking me back.

  5. Brk Trt and Sanders....Thanks! I still think they are fascinating but the one thing they also do for me now is they take me back to my childhood as I think they do for most people. Brk Trt, I think if I told Bella your advice and added they would light your pants on fire too, it wouldn't stop her form trying to catch every last one!