Firefly tourism can endanger insects

In 2012, Firefly Expert Lyn Fawcett makes a surprise phone call to the owners of Black Caddis, a bed and breakfast in rural Pennsylvania: There were reports of insects flashing in unison in the nearby woods, her team was coming to investigate, and they needed a place to stay. “They turned over all of their rooms, their two-car garage,” Faust recalls, “where we set up a laboratory full of flasks, microscopes, and fireflies.”

Faust is a member of the Firefly International Research and Education (FIRE) team, and they were looking for him Photinus Carolineus, One of the few species of fireflies in concurrent North America, which means males congregate in large groups and simultaneously flash to their court mates. Scientists are not sure why they would do this, although it may be that the cooperation of males attracts more females and allows them to compare suitors.

After two weeks of field studies, flash timing, microscopic exams, and DNA analysis, the team confirmed Ma Their report It’s called the “strong and widespread presence” of Photinus Carolineus. At the time, the only other known residents of the attractive insect in the United States were in a small section of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where thousands of visitors congregate every summer to enjoy a stunning light show.

Kane and Peggy Butler, the owners of the Black Caddis, saw an opportunity to boycott them, one of the state’s poorest. The following summer, they formed a nonprofit and hosted the first Pennsylvania Firefly. They were blown up when 400 people attended. But three years later, the festival swelled to 1,000 people in one night, overtaking their crowd management ability. “There were people running around the woods with light bulbs,” recalls Ken Butler. We knew we were making mistakes. We could not preserve the festival, let alone the habitat. “

The servants were right to be dumbfounded. In March, an international team of scientists launched The first comprehensive study of firefly tourism, Warning that viewing events could deactivate the stars of the show. Sara Lewis, lead author, professor of biology at Tufts University, and co-chair of Dr. IUCN Specialists Group Firefly. “These are real animals.”

In the United States, the firefly season begins in late May, when they present their courtship shows and Almost 200,000 tourists Head into the woods to watch. Universally, An estimated one million people Travel to fairs in at least 12 countries, a marked increase in interest fueled in part by social media. By conducting interviews and online surveys of scientists, tour guides, government officials, and independent business people, Lewis’ team has documented some of the dangers crowds pose to fireflies.

Many species spend large parts of their lives underground and on land, where unwary tourists can trample on them. Foot traffic can also compress leaf litter and soil erosion, which degrades the habitat as the larvae grow and find their prey. The light from searchlights, cameras, and phones can overwhelm her and disrupt the short window for courtship and mating. And because fireflies use chemical signals in addition to bioluminescence to attract and select a mate, excessive insect spray can confuse them.

The study provides anecdotal evidence of these problems from around the world. For example, in Amphawa, Thailand, where male fireflies create spectacular displays in mangrove forests along the Mae Klong River, fleets of motorboats and electric lamp tourists have been responsible for eliminating an estimated 80 percent of the insect population. Excessive boat traffic has also eroded riverbanks, resulting in tree falling as male fireflies scouring mud along the shoreline, which is an essential habitat for larval fireflies.

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