A third of North American firefly species face extinction

Many fireflies face problems including light pollution, climate change and habitat loss and degradation.
Credit: Mike Lewinski

The Florida intertidal firefly, the sky island firefly and the Bethany beach firefly are just three of dozens of species of bioluminescent bugs recently found to face threats of extinction in Canada and the United States. Scientists from the Xerces Society, ABQ BioPark and the firefly specialist group at the International Union for Conservation of Nature evaluated the extinction risk of 132 of the 169 known lightning bug species found in the two countries in a study published recently in PLOS ONE. They discovered that 18 of these species are critically endangered, and they categorized 10 as endangered. The team classified seven more as vulnerable and another two as near threatened. Only one-third of all species surveyed were classified as least concern, while nearly half of the species evaluated were seen as data deficient. But if the data deficient species follow the same pattern as the fireflies scientist know more about, about 29% of firefly species may be threatened with extinction. The problems the species face vary, but can include light pollution, as covered in the September/October cover feature of The Wildlife Professional, habitat loss or degradation, and climate change. “Fortunately, we can all contribute to firefly conservation,” said Anna Walker, Species Survival Officer for Invertebrates at the New Mexico BioPark Society and a co-author of the study. “Turning off artificial lights at night, participating in community science initiatives, and spreading the word about firefly declines are easy first steps.”

Read more at the Xerces Society.