Located just a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown Gatlinburg and its millions of summertime visitors is an incredible natural phenomenon known as synchronous fireflies. This breathtaking show put on by nature resembles a psychedelic combination of stars falling and fireworks exploding – It is an immersive experience you will never forget. Right here in the Smoky Mountains, near the Elkmont campground, is the largest population of synchronous fireflies in the Western Hemisphere.
Here are 6 Fun Facts you didn’t know about the Elkmont Fireflies:
1. Fireflies” aren’t flies. And “lightning bugs” aren’t bugs.
Seems strange, right? Your entire life, you’ve probably been calling them “fireflies” or “lightning bugs.” But, in fact, they’re not flies or bugs at all–they’re actually beetles!
2. There are 2,000 species of fireflies in the world.
Fireflies are found on every continent except Antarctica. In North America, there are over 150 documented species of fireflies that have been found.
3. There are 19 species of fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
In the national park alone, you can find over 19 species of fireflies. The synchronous fireflies (the Elkmont fireflies) are only one of the species in the Smokies. In fact, they are the only species in America who can synchronize their light patterns, so it’s quite a sight!
4. Not all fireflies glow in the dark.
Unfortunately, not all fireflies light up the dark night sky! In the United States, when you travel west of the Rocky Mountains, chances are you’ll see very few glowing fireflies if you are lucky enough to see any at all! Thankfully, we’ve got plenty of glowing lightning bugs in the Smoky Mountain area! And, of course, we have plenty of Elkmont fireflies lighting up the sky during the annual synchronous fireflies event.
5. Fireflies glow to locate a mate.
When you visit to see the Elkmont fireflies, you’re actually watching these lightning bugs in their annual mating ritual. The fireflies glow in the dark, each with a specific flashing pattern. Female fireflies don’t do too much flying, and they stay near the ground, so the males are usually the ones lighting up the sky. When a female becomes interested in a male, she will blink back from the ground.
6. Fireflies find their homes in different habitats.
Like many species, fireflies can be found in all sorts of habitats, from wooded areas to open fields. A bit of helpful information if you’re searching to find fireflies: look near water. Fireflies like humid environments, so these water areas provide the moisture in the air that’s just what they need.