During late May and early June, thousands of eager observers from around the world travel to the Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to observe the phenomenon of synchronized fireflies flashing in the night. The synchronized flashing was first scientifically documented in the Smokies in the 1960s, and has since been identified in places like Congaree National Park in South Carolina and Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania.
But the Elkmont area still draws the biggest crowds. In fact, access to the area during firefly season is now managed by the National Park Service with a free lottery system.
Most of the world’s hundreds of species of fireflies use their flashes to attract suitable mates. Generally, during breeding season, females wait patiently on the ground for males to fly over them and flash their flashers. If the females recognize the flashes (by flash length, flash intervals, and flash numbers) as coming from a male of their own species, they will respond with their own specific Morse-code-like sequence of flashes. Conversely, when the males recognize the correct flash response from a female, they respond with more flashes specific to their species. Once both male and female have confirmed that they are flirting with members of the same species, mating occurs.Read more...