Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Good science has a conscience, tells the truth and teaches responsible behavior

Please watch The Last Firefly video

Then consider this:

Good science and education has a conscience, tells the truth, and teaches responsible behavior. 
It sounds to me like you are making excuses for not doing good science or good education.  Good science has a conscience, tells the truth and teaches responsible behavior.  If those who are conducting the MOS FFW project want to know if fireflies are disappearing and to determine the reason, then it is very important to collect and identify specimens.  It is also important to make photographic and video records of fireflies dying, especially after cities, towns and neighborhoods are sprayed by oil-based chemical foggers.  The systematic extermination of fireflies and other insects is being conducted under the cloak of darkness and millions upon millions of dollars is being made in the process by big oil and chemical companies.  Millions of fireflies are dying and you are not even collecting specimens to identify the victims and are not collecting photographs and video to show to the world the exterminations of fireflies. Plus the toxic chemicals being used in the concentrations they are being applied may have adverse effects upon the health and welfare of people who inadventantly are exposed to these toxic chemicals.

Wake up!  Yes, fireflies are disappearing.  Yes, you must collect specimens as that is the best way to document the extermination of firefly species.  Yes, photographs and videos can easily record the effect of toxic chemicals upon fireflies as a result of exposure to air polluted by oil-based chemical foggers.  Not asking that everyone or a portion of people collect specimens and make photographic or video records of the extermination of fireflies, or to show what areas have healthy populations, is neglecting your responsibility as good educators to the community. Indeed, because you are conducting an educational program, asking for everyone to participate, that means you do have a responsibility to the community to tell the truth. You can only tell the truth by making an accurate, true and verifiable record, by collecting the physical evidence to show and prove what is happening to fireflies.  Anything less is a lie!

If you are interested in the truth, you would want everyone to collect firefly specimens, to make photographs and videos showing fireflies before and after oil-based chemical foggers go through their cities, towns or neighborhoods.  Then you would want people to collect and submit specimens, that a record may be made of the extermination of fireflies which might also serve as evidence to the cause of their death and demonstrate conclusively why fireflies in some areas are disappearing in large numbers.

By failing to do good science, by not collecting specimens, by not collecting a photographic and video record, by not even asking people to collect and observe fireflies to see if they are exhibiting unusual behavior, you are acting irresponsibly.  This is very bad science and it is very bad education because it is teaching everyone how NOT to be a good observer and how NOT to take a close look at what they are observing.  When seen from afar, a flash in the dark may hide much true!

If you want to teach about fireflies and tell the truth with respect to their disappearence, you must collect specimens and observe them up close and personal.  You must record any unusual behavior, by observing and watching for that behavior, and by recording it through photographs and videos.  Specimens of dying fireflies must also be collected and preserved for the record. 

By recording only "firefly sightings" from afar you open the door to a BIG error.  You can have the situation where fireflies emerge from the ground and may be sighted only to then rapidly expire due to exposure to chemicals on their maiden flights.  Were people only to collect the fireflies they could see if they are healthy and take photographs or make videos to record that fact.  Those fireflies that are dying would be good to preserve and identify and perhaps analysis to show what killed them.  This would not do any harm because whatever is killing the fireflies has already done the harm.

Given firefly popluations in some areas are being exterminated, there are not going to be fireflies in those areas to sight in the future, so the evidence one could be gathering to prove why they are dying is not going to be there tomorrow and it is not even being collected today.  Because what is killing fireflies may also be harmful to human beings, to be investigating the disappearance of fireflies without taking a very close look, without documenting the behavior of dying fireflies, and without even collecting a single specimen is not only BAD sciende, it is unconscionsable!

Science without conscience is what the Nazis did to the Jews, experimenting on them because they were regarded as less than human.  To ask people to watch fireflies on the premise that you want to determine if they are vanishing, when all it takes to see the truth is to collect and observe specimens, begs the question, why do not you want everyone to know the truth?  Why do not you want people to collect and observe specimens to see if they are exhibiting unusual behavior?  Why do not you want people to identify specimens which are dying so that a record of their demise may be made and/or so that this may be had for the purpose of evidence as to the cause of their death and destruction?  Why are you trying to hide the truth just by showing firefly sightings and not recording the killing of fireflies or reporting on those responsible for the mass extermination of fireflies?

The MOS FFW is bad science and is not teaching responsible behavior.  You need to be collecting specimens and observing to see if they are healthy.  A record needs to be made of fireflies which are dying or exhibiting unusual behavior.  Specimens of fireflies need to be made for the record so that later those who may be accountable may be brought to justice.  Unless this is done you are not teaching responsible behavior, you are telling everyone to go out, have a good time, enjoy watching the fireflies ... because tomorrow all the fireflies may be gone, so this is your last chance!  Don't worry, when they are all gone we will report there are NO FIREFLIES!

I hope you can see the stupidity of such a study.  You are asking people to watch the disappearance of fireflies and take no action to stop the extermination!  This is like watching the extermination of the Jews or other genocide and taking no action to stop it.  Of course fireflies are not people, but this anology is warranted because what is killing the fireflies may be unhealth for people as well.  Hence, by not collecting specimens, by not taking a close look at firefly behavior, by not recording the dying of fireflies or any unusual behavior they may be exhibiting after a short flight, you are teaching everyone how to be apathetic, irresponsible, insensitive, uncaring, blind to the truth, and a consumer of whatever products municipalities are using and spewing into the atmosphere so the big oil and chemical companies can get rich!

One can only conclude that the MOS FFW program is therefore either totally unaware of what is going on to cause the disappearance of fireflies, that they are looking the other way and asking everyone else to do the same, or that they are in a state of denial, not wanting to accept any responsibility or urge others to take responsibility for what is happening.  Therefore I repeat, this is both BAD science and BAD education.
If you want to do good science you need to be asking everyone to collect specimens and see if they are healthy.  Fireflies which are dying may certainly be preserved and identified for the record without doing any harm to the existing populations.  This is much like donating one's body or organs to science after a catistropic accident.  At least some good might then come from the loss of life.

That is basically what I am asking.  If anyone wants to know why fireflies are dying and disappearing, collect specimens   and take a closer look.  Make photographic and/or video records of any unusual behavior or dying fireflies. Preserve specimens and send them to  Of course if while you are out watching fireflies you see a fogger coming, spraying clouds of oil-based toxic chemicals into the air, run for cover, go inside, or put a gas mask on!  I don't want you to get sick or die too!

Certainly healthy fireflies once observed and photographed may be released if one is worried about doing them harm.  But fireflies which are collected and shown to be sick and dying might be of more use to the living if they are preserved and identified, a record being made for posterity.  When one sees what is really happening to fireflies, when one collects specimens and watches them slowly die after being exposed to toxins in the air, perhaps it will teach people a lesson no text books can teach -- and perhaps this lesson will help save human lives in the future!

What is killing the fireflies?

Watch The Last Firefly video.  Comments are welcome.

This video prompts the question, "What is killing the fireflies?"

After watching this video please collect fireflies in your city, town or backyard and make your own photographic or video record of any unusual behavior.  Are the fireflies you collect also exhibiting unusual behavior?  Are foggers spaying for mosquitoes before or after you watch for fireflies?  If so, please collect specimens and photograph or video tape dying fireflies; this is the best way to document what is happening to fireflies.  Also by collecting and submitting specimens for identification to, a record may be made for the future analysis of specimens to determine their exposure to toxins.  This record may be vital to actually proving that fireflies are being killed by toxic chemicals in oil-based sprays.  And guess who profits from oil-based sprays? Big oil and the chemical companies!

Unless firefly specimens are collected and a record is made, there is no physical evident to prove what is actually killing fireflies.  When you have a dead body, be it human or firefly, you can perform an autopsy, or a "fireflytopsy" to determine the cause of death.  But without a body, those who are responsible for the extermination of fireflies go free. And those who are proposing to investigate the extermination of fireflies who do not collect accurate data, including firefly specimens, are not doing good science and may make inaccurate, false reports.
Please do not misunderstand me.  I am not accusing anyone of contributing to the disappearance of fireflies, simply because specimens were not collected.  I am simply offering to help those individuals who are serious about their firefly studies and want to know the truth.  If those relatively few who are serious about their studies want to submit specimens and/or photographs, they are invited to do so.  I would like to obtain preserved specimens for identification.  Those who wish to voluntarily collect a few specimens from healthy firefly populations may do so.  This will have no significant impact upon healthy firefly populations, but it may contribute to the significance, accuracy and merit of reports that firefly observers are making.  It may also help determine what is actually causing the disappearance of fireflies.

All you have without the collection of a firefly and its identification, is a UFO, unidentified firefly object or observation.  And without a firefly body, you will not be able to determine the cause of death.  If one such observation is a UFO, then thousands of such observations are equally UFOs -- and cause of death remains speculative. Only those observations which are confirmed by physical evidence have a high degree of merit, and only when a firefly specimen is collected may cause of death, if it was not natural, be determined.  Hence those few individuals who want to learn how to do good science and who take their firefly studies serious, may want to go that extra step and collect specimens. Unless that is done then you have BAD science, especially since you are studying insects and what is causing their unnatural death.

As for the concept of a "citizen scientist" that is a bogus concept.  Everyone who was born, naturalized or applied for US citizenship after immigrating to this country and received such citizenship is a US citizen; but NOT everyone who is a citizen is a scientist. Watching fireflies does NOT make anyone a scientist, and certainly does not make them an entomologist.  A scientist is someone who uses systematics and the scientific method; when it comes to studying insects and their behavior this includes identifying the insects they are observing.  Certainly a firefly is a firefly, just as a rose is a rose.  But those who want their firefly studies or observations to have merit and be taken seriously, may want to have their fireflies identified.  Also, collecting firefly specimens, photographing fireflies and making videos of fireflies, is the best way to document what is killing fireflies.  When you have the dead body of a human or a firefly, you then have the essential and necessary key to establish the cause of death.  Otherwise all you  have is a data set based upon UFOs, unidentified firefly objects.

Certainly this fact is known by those who are scientists and who may be collecting data of "firefly sightings."  Yet if the goal is to determine whether or not fireflies are disappearing and what may be the cause of such disappearance, why do not those making the study insist on collecting specimens and making analysis to determine the cause of death?  What are they trying to cover up?  Who is sponsoring their studies?
By collecting specimens and/or making controlled experiments using known and identified species of fireflies, the reasons for the disappearance of fireflies may be established.  The fact that no effort is being made to even collect and identify a single firefly observed by over 2,000 individuals participating in the MOS FFW as noted in a recent forum post makes anyone who is serious about the study of fireflies and their disappearance question the validity of the method being used.  If the method is not sound, the conclusions reached may not be sound and everyone's efforts wasted.

The easiest way to correct this problem is to offer to identify specimens individuals collect.  I have made that offer and will use any specimens received or photographs of fireflies to build a FREE site that may help others better identify the fireflies they are observing.  This is an independent service I am offering.  Anyone who wants to avail themselves of this service is invited to do so.

Probably a low percentage of the 2,000+ people making reports of firefly sightings will bother to collect and submit specimens; hence, an offer for specimens is insignificant when it comes to impacting a healthy firefly population. Compare this to the millions of fireflies being exterminated by municipalities that are over spraying for mosquitos and I think an argument being made against collecting and identifying a few specimens shows a clear lack of awareness and understanding of the situation.  Also, certainly making photographs and/or video of firefly specimens collected which shows unusual behavior probably due to exposure to toxins, would be vital in helping to prove what is causing the disappearance of fireflies, especially in areas where foggers are spraying for mosquitos at the exact time fireflies are active.

I would like to ask everyone to watch The Last Firefly video and see what is happening to fireflies. Then decide for yourself if you want to collect and identify the fireflies you are seeing.  I also recommend you collect fireflies and make your own videos of any unusual behavior, to see if the fireflies in your area have been exposed to toxic chemicals.  This is one of the best ways to actually see what is happening to fireflies after a fogger goes through a neighborhood and decimates a healthy population of fireflies.

Unless people collect firefly specimens, make photographs or videos,  have specimens identified, then the mass extermination of species will not be properly reported and false conclusions may be reached by inaccurate data.  I challenge everyone who is serious about their firefly studies, who really is interested in knowing the truth, to collect fireflies and photograph and make videos of the fireflies you collect.  I would very much like to see if the fireflies in your city, town or backyard are exhibiting unusual behavior and are dying as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals in the air as they make their maiden flights.  And I would very much like to obtain specimens for fireflies from across the nation to identify.  Who knows, perhaps "fireflytopsy" or CSI-EF (Crime Scene Investigation of Expiring Fireflies) will aid in determining the cause of death of fireflies and the true reason fireflies are disappearing?  But even if that is not possible, seeing more videos like "The Last Firefly" may stimulate people to not only take an interest in watching fireflies, but in taking action to stop their mass extermination!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Creatures which glow I must search for

I use to live in Gainesville, Florida and studied fireflies in the area, even working as a lab technician employed by the Department of Entomology and Nematology for a short spell.  Dr. James E. Lloyd, that most eminent of professors who discovered aggressive mimicry, documented the deme of Photinus in North America, and described a number of new species of Photuris distinguishing their unique flash patters with the aid of a "firefly gun," gave me this position after learning about my work rearing fireflies in Alabama.  Later I also worked for IFAS and the Department of Zoology at the Unversity of Florida, followed by a position with an environmantal consulting firm. Plus I worked for a biological control company mass rearing insects for to service the poultry industry and citrus farmers.  Hence I know a little bit about fireflies and even a thing or two about turning wetlands into moonscapes.

During this period I kept Firefly Notebooks recording in significant detail firefly observations in and around Gainesville, Florida, even going on a field trip with Dr. Lloyd's entomology class which I took and can proudly say that I aced -- even discovering a new species of a very tiny colonial insect under a log!  I have posted some excerpts from my Firefly Notebooks at which may be of interest to firefly watchers.

Note that in order to be comfortable while working in the field I set up Field Station Three on the UF campus across from the Medicinal Plant Gardens and Lake Alice.  See the map at  I would NOT recommend anyone do this on a college campus or other private property without prior permission and notification of the campus security or property owners.  However, I was very passionate about my firefly studies and found that setting up a field station using a large six-person tent provided an escape from a sudden down pore of drenching rain and swarms of mosquitoes, those angels of death which deliver itching bites and are vectors for a number of diseases.  Hence, it was sensible and wise to have a refuge, a sheltered tent, complete with a Coleman stove, lantern, table and cot where I could work in comfort, even a place to nap without being assaulted by the a myriad of blood sucking vampire mosquitoes that might eat one alive.

Given these exploits I am quite aware of some of the best places to watch fireflies in and around Gainesville, Florida.  One site used by Dr. Lloyd was east of town near the airport.  Also the Medicinal Plant Gardens was one of my firefly hunting grounds.  Later I moved my field station to what is now a park at Devil's Millhopper, northwest of Gainesville.  I also had the opportunity to view fireflies along the Santa Fe River before many of the best firefly watching and skinny dipping areas were commercialized and turned into campgrounds and dive shops.

Some of the best firefly watching sites are in Ocala National Forests and other state parks in central Florida and the panhandle.  Currently I recommend state parks or national forests as the best locations to observe fireflies, given these are public access areas and you won't be likely to get shot by paranoid landowners, hunters, or arrested by police for trespassing.  Certainly along rivers is good firefly hunting ground, but the many virgin forests in Florida are densely overgrown with palmettos or other vegetation.  In state parks or national forests there are usually open areas, camp grounds, nature trails or even developed, elevated wooden walkways through the palmettos or under brush.  You can watch for fireflies with relative ease, not having to worry as much about ticks or being accidentally shot by poachers.

Dr. Lloyd detailed the locations where he visited and studied Photinus in his outstanding 1966 report,  Studies on the Flash Communication System in Photinus Fireflies, which certainly makes a good baseline study and reference for firefly watchers.  For each deme of firefly Dr. Lloyd observed and recorded the following behavior:

"( 1 ) time of day active and ambient light intensity at beginning of activity, (2) ambient temperatures, (3) male flash-pattern ancl pulse length, (4) male flash intervals, (5) location of females, (6) female response delay time, (7) female flash response and pulse length."

Of course Dr. Lloyd had the advantage of a specially made electronic recording device. Without an electronic device to accurately measure female flash response and also record observations, you may be left in the dark when it comes to accurate recording of such behaviors as female flash response.  These days I use a digital stop watch to record flash patterns of male fireflies, which is much nicer than the old mechanical, spring loaded, wind up, clock style stop watch I use to carry on firefly expeditions.

I call them "expeditions" rather than "watches" because I always carefully planned my journeys and trips into the fields and forest being sure that I was equipped for any event or emergency.  You never know what you may encounter at night while hunting for creatures which glow.

Once while at July Springs along the Santa Fe River some poachers came by in the middle of the night and dynamited the springs to catch fish!  They were in pick-up trucks and were probably heavily armed with shotguns or rifles.  My location was so well hidden back in the dry scrub away from the river that they never even knew someone was watching!

On another occassion while camping along the Santa Fe River at one of my favorite sites, a pack of howling, barking hound dogs swept through my campsite in persuit of wild pigs, driving them down the river bank into an ambush. Boom!  Boom!  Boom!  I could hear the hunters in the distance, shots echoing, breaking the peace and stillness of the night with thunderous blasts.  God, was that a frightful surprise!  Indeed, one never knows what they will encounter while searching for creatures which glow.  Ah, those were the good old days!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Most common fireflies in North America

Since I started the writing about fireflies and publishing my studies online, people have been writing to me wanting to learn more about fireflies.  After receiving many emails and questions I produced the Firefly FAQ site, to answer those most frequently asked questions.  However, every year during firefly season, which is generally the late spring and summer months, I continue to receive inquires.  Many write asking questions I've already answered; other want help with their science projects, which I do not do, as students should do their own science projects.  Still other send what can only be described as UFO sightings; i.e, unidentified firefly objects or observations.

A UFO is any sighting of a firefly which does not include an accurate recording PLUS collection of specimens.  If you do not record a firefly's flash pattern and also collect the specimens for later identification, than what you see is of little consequence.  Records of firefly observations may include accurate field notes, film, electronic or other recordings.  Then one must collect the actual fireflies they are observing and have them identified as to genus-species.  When this is done the one's observations have more weight and significance than if one just says they saw a firefly, a flash in the night, a sparkle or twinkle of light, a shooting star, or glitter in the sky.  You have not confirmed your observation of a firefly until the firefly is collected, photographed and/or its flash recorded.

The following advice was sent to a firefly watcher to improve their skills and abilities with respect to observing fireflies.  I have posted it here so that others may learn and benefit from this same information and to save me the time and effort of having to repeat myself.

It sounds like you are generally interested in firefly systematics. That is fine and certainly presents you with a great challenge and much to learn. However, you need to understand that this is Dr. Lloyd's speciality, an area he has been working in for almost 50 years. He has all the raw data and his published papers present only part of the puzzle with respect to classifying NA fireflies. This is still a work in progress. It currently involves much collaborative effort which includes effort to produce DNA signatures of the various species of fireflies, most notably Photuris sp.

Unfortunately my collection of entomology books and references is no longer with me. There is some material in regard to fireflies online, but it is far from complete. That is also one reason I started the Firefly FAQ site, to make it easier for people to learn about fireflies, at least the basics.

Apparently this has been somewhat successful as every year when fireflies appear people come out of the woodwork, as do the fireflies out of the leaf litter, find the Firefly FAQ site, and send me a barrage of emails. The Firefly FAQ site was designed also to try to answer most people's questions so that I would not have to repeat myself. Now that others are making firefly sites which cater to a more popular audience, such as the Boston MOS site, I'll probably be swamped with even more solicitations in the future.

It seems from your inquires that you are trying to make sense out of the many different fireflies you have been seeing on your firefly watch outings, which is quite admirable. You need to realize that what you are seeing is a seemingly confusing mix of fireflies; some 30+ species may occur at various sites scattered throughout New England. Sorting out the various species is a problem Dr. Lloyd and others have been trying to work out for many, many years. This is why I have referred you to Dr. Lloyd, to make a review of his published work, as well as the published work related to the various species of fireflies.

Part of the problem in meeting this challenge is your own need to get an education in the basics of entomology. I would recommend some introductory college level courses. Plus I recommend selecting individual, known species of insects to study, rear, observe and use as a learning tool. That way you avoid much of the confusion that comes if you do not know what species you are observing. Do not make the mistake of trying to identify a species when you have never done this before and do not know insect morphology; rather get an expert to make the identification. Or you can use known species available through universities and/or agricultural research stations or even through online resources which market known species of live insects from reared stock. The advantage of having a known specimen is that then you can do a literature review and everything you learn is properly associated with the known specimen. Plus you can then make original and significant contributions as you are studying a known species.

Now the problem is that apparently you found the Boston Museum of Science (MOS) Firefly Watch site, which is doing what I consider some very BAD science, and you are plunging into water that is over your head and want to know what the hell are all these fireflies you are seeing! :-) Is that pretty much correct? But you never have even taken a basic entomology course.

One of the reasons the Boston MOS Firefly Watch is very BAD science is, in fact, because they are asking everyone, everywhere to make and report firefly sightings without even collecting specimens that can later be identified to confirm the sightings and associated them with a genus-species of firefly. So what you end up with is essentially a very large number of UFO's, or unidentified firefly objects!

I tell people who write to me all the time, unless you collect a specimen and have it identified all you have is a UFO! So I'm telling you the same thing. I am also telling you, get an expert to identify any fireflies you collect. In this case the expert is Dr. Lloyd. With over 14,000 IDs under his belt and having produced the reference collections for NA fireflies, he should be the one to ID any species you want to study. Here again, I suggest that you select one species of firefly to study at a time and learn everything there is to know about it by doing a complete literature review. When I first began studying P. pyralis that is exactly what I did; Dr. Lloyd identified specimens I sent to him, then I learned how to identify them myself, was able to do a literature review, learn what was already known, and then be able to make some original discoveries and reports.

Anyone can use this same method, but you have to begin by selecting one species to focus your studies upon, one species at a time, especially if you are interested in behavior, and firefly flashing is an aspect of behavior. Firefly flashing can be used as an aid in identifying a species, but this was really never intended; it is only a consequence of knowledge of firefly mating behavior. Still the tried and trued way to identify a species it to collect the specimens and then observe and describe their morphology in detail. This remains true of fireflies as well as all other insects and arthropods, as well as all animals and plants. You do not identify an bird, a cricket or a firefly by its call, chirp or flashes; this is only a guide to what you may be observing that is of some use in the field. To be sure what you are observing you have to collect and identify specimens and when you are just starting out, it is best to have an expert do this for any insect you are studying. Of course if you take basic entomology and them morphology and then specialize on learning how to identify ants, flies, beetles, etc., you will get to a point where you can reference the keys, identify genera, and later various species. Such expertise does not come easy. When you look at a field guide, you can get a pretty good idea what type of insect you may have collected, but to identify it to genus or species involves having this done by an expert, or becoming an expert in taxonomy yourself and learning how to use the dichotomous keys ... if you can find them.

With regard to Photuris, Dr. Lloyd has been trying to sort them out for almost 50 years. Most of his recent publications are in the Fla. Ent. which are online. There are also some general papers out or in press in the Ency of Insects (Berkeley) and The Ency of Ent (U of F). There is also the work on stray light and ff (in press connected with U Cal LA). Also, note the key to Lampyrid genera in the Beetles of NA, edited by Arnett, N. Thomas, and others. Plus I have listed below some of the most common fireflies of North America which you are likely to encounter in or around the DC area, which is a partial list produced from review of an unpublished monogram sent to me by Dr. Lloyd.

Then there is the work-in-progress which I get the impression will never see the light of day until after Dr. Lloyd is knocking at the pearly gates. That is really quite convenient for him, as it keeps him in business and his services in demand. Why should he give me, you or anyone else all that information he has complied and then be out of a job? As a retired professor this is all he has, his little gold mine of precious gems. He did the data mining, so to speak, so he continues to reap the rewards and will until the day he dies. This is much like a musician not giving up tricks. If you are the master and you tell every young musician the secrets of all your tricks, you may soon be out of a job. Dr. Lloyd is no fool, he knows this. So over the years he has published those most significant findings which have contributed to his reputation as an authority on firefly systematics. Plus he has given lectures which often presents material that is not published. And he is an outstanding teacher!

On the other hand, I just dabble here and there and search for creatures which glow, much for my own amusement. I am interested in the general study of entomology and have made a few discoveries myself. I also enjoy photographing insects, flowers and even entire landscapes. I have given lectures with respect to photography, symbols and forms in nature, and have dabbled a bit in what I like to call Luminology. That is what I am, a Luminologist. But you are not likely to find another for I am the first. You see a Luminologist searches for creatures which glow, not only in the fields, meadows and forests, not only under rocks and logs, not only in the caves and canyons, not simply beneath the sea, but deep inside the mind where there are no barriers of time and space, 'cept perhaps death itself, and one may travel faster than the speed of light.

You might have to actually go down to the University of Florida if you want to get access to one of the best collection of literature there is on fireflies. You see that is what I did when I went down to Gainesville. I spent much time in the stacks digging through books, reading, studying, learning. One reaches a point where there are questions which cannot be answered by searching through the literature. That's when you have to start asking the fireflies for the answers, start doing experiments, and learning through making your own observations and discoveries. This applies not only to fireflies but to all of nature. There is, after all, the unknown, and it is a library of infinite stacks which would dwarf all the libraries in the known universe.

I hope that I may have been of some help. Should you take my advice and select a single species of firefly to focus your attention upon, perhaps a Photinid that is common on your firefly watches, try to collect 6 - 12 specimens. Then see if Dr. Lloyd will identify them to species. Then get the keys and learn how to do it for yourself from reference specimens. That way you know what species you are studying and can do a literature review and then do original research. Repeat this process for every species you want to study and learn about, be it a few or many.

That is basically how one goes about studying any species of firefly or insect. You always get the top expert to identify collected specimens. If you leave that step out and are just reporting "firefly flashes" the result is BAD science, just so many UFO's, unidentified firefly objects. And guess what, sometimes what is reported is not fireflies at all!

Since starting the Firefly FAQ site I have certainly received some wild and crazy sightings of UFO's. Plus a novice can think they see a firefly when all they saw was the flicker of a star. Walk along a piney wood and it is easy to mistake the flicker of a star between passing tree branches for a firefly. Some have even mistaken distant lights from houses, street lamps, or even moving autos seen through a wood as a firefly. Then there are completely fabricated reports and hoax sightings. The Internet is notorious for hoaxes of all sorts. This is one more reason that without a specimen in hand and an accurate recording of firefly mating flash pattern, all your really have is a UFO, unidentified firefly object! :-)

Now with all this said you are probably still asking, what the hell are all these fireflies I'm seeing? Everyone else participating in the Boston MOS Firefly Watch is probably wondering the same thing. Now to make it worse they are referring to Dr. Lloyd's studies and mapping and fail to mention, by the way unless you collect and identify a firefly specimen, your observations do not count and are just UFO's! :-) So all this data they are collecting is useless and everyone is basically wasting their time participating is what is just a way to advertise and promote the Boston MOS. Oh, and it might get some people interested in fireflies, but they might be better off just looking at the stars, as at least then they can identify the constellations, buy a telescope and at least maybe discover a comet.

As it is, since firefly specimens are not being collected and identified, and all one has is amateurs reporting possible sightings, all you have is encounters of the zero kind -- UFO's that aren't even worth noting or taking seriously. It's BAD science! It would be better for the museum to get some known species of insects, rear them and give them to everyone who wants to study and learn about them. Crickets would be an ideal choice given they are easy to real. But even as much as I love watching fireflies, I've never though of it as a sport or just for entertainment, amusement or a way to raise money or membership for a museum. If that's what they want then they should market some of my "I Love Firefly" gifts and apparel. :-)

But, hell, I can't even get you interested in wearing one of my firefly tees and sending me a pic. So why should I bother if you are confused by the DC area firefly mix. I've basically told you how to sort it out. One firefly species at a time, observed, recorded, collected, pinned, and identified via its morphology. That is how it is done. But if you leave out any of steps all you have is close encounters of the ZERO kind and so many useless UFO's, unidentified firefly objects.

Plus many more of these email and no doubt I'll be getting a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome and be hit with a big medical bill. :-) Ah, the price one pays for searching for creatures which glow. But still we do it. It is like falling in love. Do you know anything about that? Happily, fondly, madly in love. For you see, one can fall in love with fireflies and creatures which glow. I fell so in love a long time ago. And the only reason I both with you is because you have too.

In kind regards,

PS Some of the most common fireflies in North America include members of Photinus, Pyractomea and Photuris. I've listed below some of those common to parts of the USA, which is from unpublished monograms Dr. Lloyd sent me. Maybe this will help. Knowing this you can get the binomial keys and the original descriptions of each of the various species. Of course the list below is incomplete; there are other genera and species of fireflies, over 170 in NA north of Mexico. But this list will give you a good starting point, as these are among the most common fireflies you are likely to encounter in and around DC.

***Partial List of Most Common Fireflies of North America***

This is a partial list of some of the most common fireflies in North America (Edited from unpublished monograms by Dr. James E. Lloyd, 2002) Please note that this is only a partial list including Photinus, Photuris, and Pyractomena; there are over 170 known species of fireflies in North America. Dr. Lloyd has produced voucher collections plus much unpublished material and original research related to the fireflies of NA. In the field you may observe and collect many other species of fireflies not listed here. You should consult the scientific literature for a morphological description of any firefly and it related flash pattern to make an identification. Many species of Photuris can only be accurately identified by recording and analyzing their flash patterns.

Photinus (42+ NA species, 235+ World)
aquilonius Lloyd ne USA
ardens LeConte ne USA, se Canada
consimilis Green Missouri
curtatus Green c USA, X marginellus in NY
ignitus Fall e USA
macdermotti Lloyd e USA
marginellus LeConte ne, nc USA
obscurellus LeConte ne USA, se Canada
pyralis (L.) e USA
sabulosus Green e, c USA
Photuris (36+ NA species, 90+ World ; ms epithets tentative

fairchildi Barber e, c USA & Canada
hebes Barber (SH) e, c USA
lucicrescens Barber e USA
pennsylvanica (DeGeer) e, nc USA
potomaca complex Barber e USA
Pyractomena (17+ NA species, 25+ World)
angulata (Say) e USA, Canada
borealis (Randall) e USA, Canada
dispersa (cmplx) Green e, nc USA
linearis LeConte ne, nc USA
lucifera (Melsheimer) e USA
marginalis Green ec & ne USA
sinuata Green ne, nc USA

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Creatures which glow I must search for

Since I started the Firefly FAQ site many people have written to me wanting to know how to study and learn about fireflies.  Here is a bit of good advice which I originally shared in an email to a fellow firefly lover: 
I hope you have a nice weekend and enjoy your time with your friends. Hopefully you will all get a chance to see some fireflies together.
You are welcome to send any adult firefly specimens. Just be sure to label them with pencil: name of collector, date, city, state and any other information you record as to flash patter. You might number the specimens and then add additional information about them.
I would like to update the Firefly FAQ site and add complete information with binomial keys and color photographs. I asked Dr. Lloyd a while back about contributing any material he could.  His reply was that he was swamped with work and could only send a few reprints. I wanted to get the copies of the actual recording for each species, but no luck there.
Certainly any specimens of fireflies you or anyone else wants to send my way will be put to good use. I will give credit to the collectors.  Fireflies in North America can be identified using dichotomous key and close observation of their morphology; you need a good microscope and certainly it helps to have recorded the flash pattern. The exception is Photuris; they must be identified by recording flash patterns as many species of Photuris may only be distinguished by flash patterns.
I do recommend that for anyone wanting to learn about insects, they learn basic entomology, either by taking a college level course or making intensive study upon their own.  I recommend beginning by reading the works of Henry Fabre, the Father of Entomology.  I also recommend selecting an insect which is easy to rear to study initially.  Known specimens may be obtained from universities or agricultural research centers.  By obtaining known species you can learn about them from your own observations as well and make complete literature reviews.  After you have done this with a dozen or so known species of insects, you will be some what of an expert.  Using this method removes the confusion as you know what species you are studying, can collect reprints, and even repeat experiments others have done.  Using this method will make one an expert over time.
I also recommend studying small insects like fruit flies and springtails.  There is probably more published about fruit flies than any other insect, so this makes a very good insect to study when you are learning basic entomology, and genetics.  Also you would be surprised how many springtails there are and how many scientists there are around the world who specialize in their study.  They even have their own society!
Certainly crickets would also be a good insect to study to learn the basics of entomology. They are easy to rear and knows species can be easily obtained. Also studying crickets is much like fireflies, but instead of communicating with light, crickets use sound.  Certainly studying crickets would be appropriate for a musician and it might be an area where you could excel.
I can understand your frustration with trying to learn about fireflies.  But here again I recommend learning to identify one species, rearing that species, making a literature review of that species and becoming an expert with respect to that species.  Then when you are an expert with one species of firefly, you can select another and repeat the process.  This way you avoid many of the stumbling blocks one might find if they look at a field or meadow and see a confusing mix of various fireflies which do not much sense initially.
By using the method I recommend one is not as likely to hit a wall and become frustrated or confused.  It makes good sense to start out learning the basics of entomology by taking a course, and studying known, identified species of insects which you have acquired from a reliable source. They can also tell you how to rear the insect as standard rearing methods have been adopted for maintaining stocks at universities and agricultural research centers.
Certainly if you use this approach you will not only learn at an accelerated rate, you will likely find the experience more rewarding and enjoyable over the long run.  Then as you gain a good foundation in the study of entomology you may tackle new species, perhaps even species of fireflies which are not so well known.  But here again the key is to study one species at a time until you master it.  This is much like learning to play a new musical instrument.  You have to focus upon that instrument, practice and practice, until you develop perfection. The same is true when it comes to studying entomology.  You have to pick one insect (one instrument), and become a master or expert with respect to that species.  Then when you are a master, as in knowing how to play a flute or a guitar, you can move on to master another insect using the same method over and over for as many different insects (or instruments) as you wish to learn to play.
Of course learning and studying about fireflies, and reflecting ones experience, is not just an intellectual challenge; rather, it involves romance.  There is a long history of fireflies appearing in art, poetry, music, movies, and even commercials.  Here is firefly tale of my own which I'd like to tell entitled "Creatures which glow I must search for,"  
There was once an old lady who lived in a shoe and she had so many fireflies she didn't know what to do, so she named them: Blink and Blinker, Twink and Twinkle, Sparkie and Sparkle, Amber and Neon, plus a dozen, dozen more fast fliers and flashers.  She named each of her firefly children and even talked to them and listened.  One day they found her sitting atop a loft of a great a red barn shining a flash light up toward the stars saying, "Here I am!  Can your see me?  Are your out there?"  They thought she was quite nuts and took her away to a big concrete building, much like Bellevue, with other old men and women suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and locked her away.  But she still watches her firefly children inside her mind, dancing round and round in circles giggling.  Often she could be heard talking to her imaginary firefly friends, "Hello Blinker.  How are you doing tonight Sparkie?"  Over time she got better and they would let her sit out on the lawn and watch real fireflies as twilight came.  On one such evening after a gentle, cool rain, the moon grinded a big Cheshire cat smile, and it seem every leaf on every tree sparkled and glittered with tiny flashing lights.  The old lady's face smiled and seemed to glow itself as she reached out and fireflies came to land in her palms.  Soon thousands upon thousands of fireflies came from all directions and gathered, landing upon the old lady until she was aglow from head to toe. Then suddenly one of the attendants appears from a doorway to call her in and the gathered fireflies took to flight!  The old lady vanished as in a flash and was never seen again!  It was as if she had turned to light and taken flight up and away into the night upon a thousand, thousand tiny wings. Some who have heard this tale and ventured forth in search of living lights and creatures which glow have thought they have seen a spirit floating over the meadow or through the forest, much too large to be a firefly.  I thought I saw her once, too, but then told myself such ghosts are but the mind playing tricks upon one's self.  It's strange what one may see and come to believe, especially if they have loved and lost someone most dear to their heart.  For you see, that old lady she was my dear mother, and loved watching fireflies as much as I.
Feel free to share this tale with others who love watching fireflies.  Maybe if you one day have children you can also share it with them.  No telling how far young, open and free minds can go if they travel with light and warmth in their heart, and share that light and love, through all of life with everyone they come to know, even if it hurts at times, or some do not understand, the creatures which glow that I must search for.
In kind regards,
Terry Lynch   

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Museum of Science in Boston Firefly Watch is bad science and risky behavior

Recently I learned that the Museum of Science in Boston (MOS) is sponsoring a Firefly Watch program in cooperation with Tufts University and Fitchburg State College.  The aim of the program is to stimulate education and learning about fireflies through encouraging people to watch fireflies.  Background information about fireflies is presented and everyone around the country is encouraged to watch fireflies and report their sightings.  The results are mapped for everyone to view and the project is presented upon the Internet making it available to everyone nation-wide at

The MOS site is relatively new, having been started in May, 2008, and being supervised by a number of educators including  Christopher Cratsley,  Kristian Demary, Don Salvatore, and Adam South. See   At first glance the MOS Firefly Watch seems like a great idea, a way to stimulate interest in learning about nature and the environment while enjoying the great outdoors.

Although a Firefly Watch may be a fun and educational project which may stimulate public interest in science and the study of nature, it is BAD science.  The sightings of amateurs with respect to fireflies and using such unreliable data to produce maps related to the occurrence of fireflies is fraught with inaccuracies and errors, plus may lead to some very wrong conclusions.  All that one can really conclude from such a project is that a bunch of people saw some fireflies.  But did they really?  And is encouraging everyone to go out at night to watch for fireflies, unprepared for unforeseen, yet probable mishaps, necessarily a good idea?

I've been studying and observing fireflies for over 40 years and one thing I have learned is that there are a lot of people who don't even know what a firefly is, much less how to identify a firefly.  In my book the only meaningful sightings of fireflies are those made by reliable observers, well trained, educated scientists and naturalists, a who not only see a flash in the night, but collect specimens and identify those specimens.  Collecting and identifying any insect is how you confirm and record your observations.  One may also use photographs or videos to document their observations and certainly field notebooks are a primary method for recordings one's observations of fireflies, insects or other wildlife.

What is NOT good science is asking everyone who knows nothing about fireflies, entomology or nature study, to make a report about what they saw and then call it fact.  Why there are some who would profess that once upon a time this was done a very big rumor got started, such a big rumor that until this day people still believe that this bright star they saw in the sky was a sign from God, was the coming of a King.  I'm referring, of course, to the birth of a rather famous fellow named Jesus Christ, who later it was reported rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and will come again on judgment day.  Sorry, but I for one don't believe it happened exactly like that!

Don't get me wrong.  I do believe that there was a person named Jesus Christ, that he was a great teacher and advocate of the principle of "love thy neighbor as you love yourself," that he was somewhat of thorn in the side of authorities, that he was wrongly arrested and accused with respect to encouraging tax evasion, that for his "alleged crime" he was crucified under the name "King of the Jews," and that in this sense he was a great person, perhaps very worthy of leadership, if not worship.  But that star in the sky was perhaps a super nova or comet, and I don't think God had anything to do with its appearance or the birth of baby Jesus; and I certainly don't believe Mary was a virgin!   Rather, I believe that there is much mysticism and mythology which became associated with the life of Jesus Christ after he died.  This was the result of a long process of telling and retelling of the very emotional stories of his life, the life of a simple carpenter, a real live mortal man, a person who was a teacher of love and a champion of the poor and deprived, who felt people should not be taxed to death by a conquering nation, Rome, which occupied his homeland.  But as soon as Jesus Christ was crucified the rumors began, man's infinite capacity to dream and imagine, to fantasize, took over, and Jesus Christ arose from the dead inside the mind of mortal man, to be turned into the son of God, born under the prophecy of a star, that his spirit might live on and serve as a most powerful weapon and influence against that conquering nation, Rome, to contribute to its eventual downfall, which occurred through the founding of a new religion, Christianity, based upon the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.  My, doesn't God, whether you believe in Him (or me) or not, work in mysterious ways!  :-)

The MOS Firefly Watch is a similar exercise in "What did you see?"  Did you see a firefly or was it something else?  Did you see God out in the meadow or was it just a lightning bug?  Are those who have signed up to report their firefly sightings telling the truth?  How many even know how to collect insects and properly identify them?  How many are more interested in being the "Top Dog" firefly watcher, and are exaggerating their reports or altogether fantasizing and creating a hoax?  What measures, if any, are being taken to prevent such false reports?  Just how reliable is any data with respect to firefly observations when gathered from a group of people who do not even collect and identify specimens?  I say such information is so full of holes that it cannot be relied upon, has little weight, and should NOT be regarded as good science.

In fact, the MOS Firefly Watch is very BAD science.  Part of the problem is that any maps created do not really give a true picture of firefly occurrence; all they show is possible sightings, which are most probable to increase with such factors as human population density and the ownership of computer or other Internet connected devices by people participating in the project (given the Internet is being used to advertise and promote the project).  One would expect over time more sightings would be reported as more and more people learn about the project and join to participate, that this would seem to give the allusion that more fireflies sightings are reported over time, even if in some areas firefly populations are actually decreasing.  In fact, one would expect that the greatest number of sightings would initially be in and around Boston where the MOS Firefly Watch program was started, as that area would initially have the most member watchers.  Then over time the number of sighting further away would gradually increase as more and more people learn about the MOS Firefly Watch project, until a map or reports shows sightings far and wide.  But what are people seeing and what are they reporting?  What worth is a "witnessed" observation or sighting without physical EVIDENCE.

This is a question which comes up in every jury trial.  How reliable is human observation?  If you do not have physical evidence, if you have only human testimony, then it is very easy to create a set of false impression, to slant a judge or jury's decision.  If the report or testimony of witnesses is packed with lies, prejudicial statements, partial truths, or otherwise slanted, this increases the probability of reaching an erroneous conclusion and a verdict that is unjust.

In pure scientific investigations the best science is done when a method is used that gathers physical evidence, which relies upon observations coupled with experiments that create a record of one's findings, a record which may be viewed by and confirmed by others, and which uses the method of controlled experiment which may also be repeated by others, such that through repeating a study and getting the same result time and time again, some degree of verifiable truth may be established.

When you have a Firefly Watch project and ask everyone, everywhere to report fireflies, instructing them what to look for via the Internet, you open the door very wide to error.  Such a remote alias name study (people quite often hide their true identities behind a fabricated email address and the MOS Firefly Watch uses email as a registration process) does not even identify the participants; hence there is no way to know who they are.  Is the person an honest person?  What level of education does the observer have?  Do they use alcohol or some other mind altering substance?  Do they go out, have a few drinks, smoke marijuana, take LSD, or in some other way impair their judgment before making a firefly sighting report?  Do they even have eyes or are they blind as a bat and just want attention from other firefly watchers?  And do they just sign on to make reports under one alias email name and address, or do they adopt several alias email address names, so they can achieve some advantage in what is perceived as a game, where what counts is running up the biggest score, the most fireflies seen, and being praised by others, with some of that praise perhaps coming from one's own other alias email name?

Certainly it is possible to do research of behavior, especially human behavior, without identifying or reporting the actual identity of the participants.   For example, you might assign each real person a number and have all related data collected traced and tracked by that number.  But when you never even meet, know or identify those making a report, and have no real knowledge of what it is they say they see, no physical evidence, then the entire set of data collected is unreliable, likely to be fraudulent, and of little worth or value beyond the mere entertainment it may provide those who participate in the project.  Plus, those serious, honest participants who try to make accurate and correct reports and who endeavor to identify the species of fireflies they observe, have their good work and observations potentially corrupted by the majority of bad, unconfirmed and erroneous sightings, thus polluting the good data that is in the pool.  As they say, "One rotten apple makes the whole barrel rotten."

Given these factors I do not give any merit whatsoever to the MOS Firefly Watch program.  This is BAD science.  It is especially a bad way to study fireflies and may result is some very incorrect, inaccurate and wrong conclusions.  For example, one may conclude that there is no adverse effect upon fireflies in North America because of global warming, urbanization or over spraying for mosquitoes because total firefly reports may go up over time.  But the very design of the project predicts firefly reports will increase over time as more and more people learn about the MOS Firefly Watch project.

There is another BIG problem created by the MOS Firefly Watch project.  It may not be safe to encourage everyone, everywhere to go out at night to watch fireflies, not even giving them any instruction on how to do this properly and safely.  I learned how to observe and study nature from a young age, hiking and exploring, photographing wild animals.  But I also was a scout and adopted the rule to always be prepared.  This means knowing first-aid and it also means using the buddy system.  Plus it means being armed, if only with a knife and matches, that you can do such things as shave wood to start a fire.  Yet the MOS Firefly Watch project encourages everyone, everywhere to just go out at night and report their firefly sightings, without any survival training, preparation or planing to be sure they will come home safely.

Regardless of what the MOS Firefly Watch data appears to show about fireflies and firefly populations, human populations are exploding around the world.  In North America there are constant changes in the population; that is why a census is done every 10 years.  In the 2010 census a primary emphasis was put on establishing the ethnic origins of the population.  This is because immigration, legal and illegal, is a primary factor in our population's growth and change.  Also there are shifts in population from rural to urban areas, which means that population densities increase around cites, and decrease in rural areas.  That means more firefly sightings in urban areas and less in rural areas, not necessarily because of firefly popular density variation, but because of human population changes.  It also means that there is increased probability that humans watching fireflies at night will encounter other humans -- who are likely NOT watching fireflies and may NOT have the firefly watcher's best interest in mind.

I was quite shocked when I learned that one female participant in the MOS Firefly Watch program was going out alone at night in a major metropolitan area, completely without any regard for her safety, unarmed and without any means of self defense, virtually naked as a jay when it comes to being a target for any human predators.  As a naturalist I have traveled widely throughout America, photographing landscapes and studying plants and animals, night and day, under all imaginable conditions and terrain.  But I have always gone prepared and have thus far always come home safely.  But I have encountered everything from venomous snakes to bears, and the worst of all creatures that I have encountered are the two legged kind.  Therefore I recommend that if one is going to watch fireflies they do so prepared for whatever else they may encounter, including rapist, muggers, gang bangers, pedophiles or other vial creatures of the night.  This is especially true when such firefly excursions are prompted by a project like MOS Firefly Watch, which as far as I can tell, has not even taken this factor into consideration.

SAFETY SHOULD ALWAYS COME FIRST.  But apparently (as of this writing) the perils of watching fireflies are not even mentioned by the MOS Firefly Watch.  Are these so called educators so naive that they do not even know what perils lurk in the darkness?  Do they ever read crime reports?  Are they shut up in their laboratories measuring firefly genitalia, oblivious to the real dangers in the world?  You don't ask everyone, everywhere to go out alone at night and watch fireflies just so you can collect data for a report, perhaps to refute global warming effects based upon the conjured demise of fireflies, to boost your ego, reputation or profit.  This is irresponsible!  Shame on you, esteemed professors!  If someone gets hurt in the process, you are directly responsible and to blame!

Not everyone is cut out to be a naturalist, a firefly watcher, or even an honest reporter of human affairs.  Firefly study is for trained, educated, prepared naturalist or scientists who know the risks and who have taken measures to reduce the risks.  This may include everything from working with teams equipped to handle any situation, or it may include individuals properly armed for self defense should they be assaulted while out observing or collecting fireflies in an urban jungle area.  I use that terminology, "urban jungle," because there are other predators stalking prey besides Photuris, a predatory species of firefly which lures and eats male fireflies of other species.  There are human predators who lurk in the dark, who hide in the shadows, who stalk their victims, who kidnap, rape, rob and murder.  How can esteemed professors ask everyone, everywhere to watch and report fireflies, when they know this is not a safe activity for the novice?

I have traveled throughout the continental United States, both with groups of people as well as alone.  I have ventured forth in the fields, forest and meadows.  I have encountered venomous snakes, alligators, bears and other natural perils.  I know I've been lucky and have dodged death on any number of occasions.  That is why I say it is foolish and irresponsible for MOS to host and sponsor a Firefly Watch, open to everyone, everywhere, advertised and promoted via the Internet, and not properly inform or prepare participants for the dangers they may encounter.

With this in mind I posted recommendations with respect to how a naturalist may reduce their risk when watching fireflies.  This includes being properly armed and using the buddy system.  Certainly how one chooses to arm themselves when going into the wilderness or while exploring the urban jungle is a matter for each individual to decide.  But my recommendation is to use the buddy system, even if that just means your best friends are Smith & Wesson!

Hopefully everyone, everyone who answers the MOS Firefly Watch call with come home safely.  Hopefully all participants will be able to see and report some beautiful firefly displays and not encounter any two-legged predators who wish to do them harm.  But as a realists and a naturalist I know that the more people who go out watching fireflies in urban areas, then the greater is the probability someone will become the victim of a rape, robbery, assault or, God forbid, a murder.  I also know that you will increase your rate of survival if you use the buddy system, and when hiking alone or watching fireflies there is perhaps no better friend than Smith & Wesson, unless maybe it is a Colt .45!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Where have all the fireflies gone?

I've been studying fireflies for many years and am the producer of Firefly FAQs.  Over the years I have notices fewer fireflies in some areas and have been receiving reports of dwendling numbers in other areas.  The question is, "Where have all the fireflies gone?"

With the current concern regarding global warming caused by an exploding populations and increased usage of fossile fuels, the burning and destruction of forests, and skyrocketing urbanization, one wonders to what degree these and related factors have to do with the disappearence of fireflies?

A related question is how many other species are dwindling in numbers due to changing environmental conditions caused by an exploding human population?  Also one wonders what can be done to save the planet and stop the destruction?

Part of the problem is that although we may notice the disappearence of fireflies, one may not notice the disappearence of thousands of other species, such as the many insects which are active between dusk and dawn.  In unpopulared, virgin winderness areas of the tropics and subtropics the night sky is filled with tons of tiny insects.  Yet when natural forest are destroyed and replaced with concrete jungles, the number of these midnight fliers drops dramatically -- at least that is what I imagine to be the case when seeing fewer and fewer moths and other nocturnal insects swarming around bright street and stadium lamps during summer months.  But what is really the nature of the loss when taken on a global scale?  No one knows for sure.

I would like to establish a mobile research station and travel about the country to research this matter, yet I have no funding for such a project.  Yet that is a dream.  Are there any rich benefactors who would like to contribute to such a project?  If so, please let me know.

In the mean time I'd like to hear from others who are concerned about how global warming or other changes may be effecting the environment.  Is there some immediate concern you have, a critical issue that you would like to address?  If so, please post a comment.  What is going on in your neck of the woods and have you noticed any decrease in the numbers of small animals, insects or other environmental impacts?

I would especially like to see photographs which might illustrate changes people have notices, such as mutations of animals.  It might be fun to post photos here showing evidence of clear cutting, pollution or fish kills.  Anything you might come across in this respect, please post a photograph or a link to where it may be found.

I would also be interested in receiving specimens of fireflies from other areas so I can observe and photograph them under a microscope.  These should be preserved in 70% alcohol.  I would like to obtain specimens of fireflies from all over the world, as well as firefly larvae.  So if you happen to be able to catch and collect any firefly specimens, please preserve them and send them to me.  Thanks.

I would also like to know what others are doing to help stop global warming and preserve the environment.  One thing I'm doing is trying to raise awareness.  As a graphic artist, designer, and photographer, I have produced a number of gift and apparel items related to fireflies as well as save the world and stop global warming promotions.  These creations may be used to express one's concern with respect to these critical issues and help raise awareness.

If you are also a creative person or naturalist and would like to share your insight or creations with everyone, please post a link to your site.  Over time I'm hoping others will share their concerns, opinions and expressions that a network will be created of like minds.  So please, share your thoughts and expressions.