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Fireflies Spark Curiosity


If you go into the backyard after dusk this time of year, you may get treated to the greenish yellow flashes of the firefly. But what do the flashes mean?

"We are looking at the silent love songs of male fireflies," explained Sara Lewis, Professor of Evolutionary and Behavioral Ecology at Tufts University

Lewis has written a new book called Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies.

If you think that there are fewer fireflies than there used to be, you're right. Both habitat loss and light pollution have decreased the number of fireflies, Lewis explained. She suggests letting your lawn grow longer to help firefly larvae survive. This allows the soil to retain more moisture, which the baby "glow worms" need to grow.

"Let some leaf litter accumulate and some decaying logs," she said. "That's the kind of place that firefly larvae like to hang out."

Lewis also recommends joining Firefly Watch, a citizen science project which allows you to join a network of volunteers by observing your own backyard. This helps scientists map fireflies and allows citizens to learn more about these nifty glowing bugs. 

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.