- Emma Pardo
The Extinction Of Fireflies
It is the heat of the summer, you’re somewhere between the age of 8 and 12 and it is starting to change to dusk. The small and pulsing glow of fireflies catch your eye and the urge to catch them crosses your mind and keeps you occupied for an hour or so. For most, this memory will be a story to tell someday as fireflies are at a major risk for extinction according to a recent study.
Due to habitat loss, pesticide use and the use of artificial lighting, fireflies as well as 2,000 other species are at risk.
Habitat loss is the leading factor in the decline of wildlife animals which means that certain conditions that species, like fireflies, are not good enough to sustain wildlife numbers. With open fields being paved, waterways disturbed by motorboat use and habitats disappearing and being replaced with houses and commercial development, the environment is not liveable for these insects.
Artificial lighting is the next most severe factor in this decline. The use of street lights, commercial signs and skyglow display something brighter than a full moon. This type of lighting affects the fireflies mating rituals as they cannot factor in the proper chemicals to illuminate and fail to reproduce and or misinterpret this artificial lighting as a potential partner.
"In addition to disrupting natural biorhythms—including our own—light pollution really messes up firefly mating rituals," said Avalon Owens, a PhD candidate in biology at Tufts and a co-author of the study, in a news release.
Studies have shown that over 23% of the planet’s land surface now experiences some degree of artificial lighting at nighttime. This number continues to grow as use of new technology advances.
The authors of the study, who are affiliated with the International Union for Conservation of Nature Firefly Specialist Group, surveyed 350 members of the Fireflyers International Network to catalog the threats faced by the insect.
One more factor that adds to the decline is that places like Japan and Taiwan created a recreation out of the miraculous lighting that these bugs give off. While this is becoming more popular and widespread, it impacts the number of fireflies as a result.
In Thailand, some motorboat usage along the rivers is toppling trees and eroding river banks which leads to the destruction of habitats and making it close to impossible for these species to maintain their numbers.
No study or statement about the extinction of insects is complete without mentioning the usage of pesticides.
While this epidemic continues it is encouraged by scientists, entomologists and firefly fans around the world to create suitable environments, minimal light pollution and insecticides as well as better guidelines for tourism around known firefly areas.
"Our goal is to make this knowledge available for land managers, policy makers, and firefly fans everywhere," said co-author Sonny Wong of the Malaysian Nature Society, in a news release. "We want to keep fireflies lighting up our nights for a long, long time.