One evening on a recent trip to the north Georgia Mountains, firefly flashes reminded me of the rare times I witnessed lightning bugs on spring nights in Manatee County, Florida. My brother and I were often sent to bed shortly after dark, so perhaps fireflies appeared more often than my childhood memories suggest, but I can only recall a few such magical evenings. I have observed the floating blinks of light on more frequent occasions in northern parts of the county throughout my life; however, Gardening Solutions on a University of Florida educational website contends “Fireflies,…not flies or bugs, but…actually beetles…include 56 species found in Florida.”
So, the bioluminescent creatures are out and about in Florida; an interested person just needs to know where and when to look for them. Marc Branham, a University of Florida associate professor of entomology and one of the world’s foremost experts on fireflies, argues, “In Florida, some species are only out for about 23 minutes every night. It’s not 30 minutes, it’s not 20 minutes, it’s 23 minutes.” That is a small window for observations.
Perhaps firefly enthusiasts should ponder the words of Crowfoot, a Blackfoot chief, who said before his death in 1890, “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
From the 3rd chapter, “Nighthawks,” in Growing Up Floridian:
On rare nights in the spring, a few fireflies blinked at the edge of the trees and deeper into the swamp. I knew what the little points of light were because my brother and I caught fireflies the last summer I spent in Massachusetts when I was four. I had not seen any for the first several years on the ranch and did not know their appearance was typically so brief in central Florida. These fireflies were too quick to catch and disappeared into the tall weeds, staying close to the ground in contrast to my northern experience when the bugs would slowly rise from the grass and float into the air or on into the trees. The northern species was slow enough to be caught by a young kid, and I could vaguely remember filling a small jar with blinking lights.