The Return of the Fireflies

When I first moved into my new townhouse over 14 years ago, I was struck by the lack of fireflies. The evenings were dark, with no bright flashes indicating their presence. I thought this was odd. And I wondered: would this be a permanent situation? would they some day come back?

Over the years, the trees in our development grew, and more people planted different plants. Still, most people just have a bit of grass in front of their house and maybe a tree with a mulched circle. In my part of the development, there are plenty of different plants available, thanks to yours truly, and for the past few years, I have seen more and more fireflies flying around in the evening.

If you don't see fireflies, it may be because your home is too new - all their habitats were removed and replaced with nursery stock on imported "top soil". There's nothing wrong with those plants, but the fireflies need to find your yard again and get established there. The larvae live on the ground, under bark and leaves, and feed on snails, slugs, and other invertebrates - which also need to find your yard again.

You can help attract fireflies to your yard by providing hiding places for the larvae, such as pine bark nugget mulch or loose leaf mulch. The adults appreciate the occasional meal of nectar or pollen, from flowers that you can plant.

As a lazy gardener, I appreciate all the help that nature can give me with pest management. So, I enjoy the visits of the fireflies, praying mantids, ladybeetles, assassin bugs, and other helpers. But I also have another secret: I try not to grow plants that are easily devoured by insects. I am also learning what the rabbits will and will not eat. Don't worry - the rabbits won't starve. There's plenty of clover to be found in a patch in front of my house.

© Iris H. Mars, 2003.