Human threats imperil fireflies worldwide

A female glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca) will shine for hours to attract a mate, but artificial light sources can interfere with this process. ©Jason Steel - www.jason-steel.co.uk

Habitat loss, artificial light and pesticides are the largest threats impacting fireflies and causing their declines worldwide, according to new research. Scientists surveyed members of the Fireflyers International Network to fill knowledge gaps about the threats facing the insects, famous for their displays of bioluminescence. They found habitat loss was the largest threat, followed by artificial light and pesticide use. Survey respondents expected habitat loss to be the biggest problem for firefly beetles, especially for species that are habitat specialists. What’s more troubling, they found, was that for beetles like the Photinus pyralisfound in the eastern United States, migration or colonization of more firefly beetles can’t stop local extirpations. Pesticides may also cause higher mortality in larvae, and light pollution has been associated with reduced reproductive success in some firefly species.

Read the study in Bioscience.