Festival FAQ's

Registration for firefly walks is full.  If I come, can I still see fireflies?

We're sorry that we don't have space for everyone to take a guided walk the night of the festival- we hate to disappoint anyone!  To protect the habitat of the fireflies we must set limits on the number of people we can accommodate.

There are a few ways you can still see fireflies on June 24th:

1.  Put yourself on the standby list when you arrive at the Festival.  If we have no-shows for registered walks, you might get a spot.

2.  Get one of our firefly information packets, and use the map to head to other firefly-populated sites in the area (or in your own back yard after the event).

3.  Ask one of our volunteers about the small synchronous population that might be available to view right at the festival site.

You can also register for a Seasonal Guided Walk at Black Caddis Ranch anytime from June 16 to July 1. 


What should I bring with me?

Camp chairs or a picnic blanket, bug repellent and sunscreen, an umbrella or rain gear in case of inclement weather.  You may want to bring a picnic or beverages, but there will be food vendors on site and water will be available.  Money/credit cards so you can shop with our artists and vendors. 

What should I NOT bring with me?

Absolutely NO alcohol or drugs are permitted on site. Use or possession will be grounds for expulsion from the event. 

How should I dress?

If you are coming for the day, we suggest you dress appropriately for the weather and hiking, but bring extra gear for inclement weather.  If you are staying through the evening and will be hiking to see the fireflies, we strongly recommend sturdy footwear suitable for hiking in rough and wet conditions, long pants and a long sleeve shirt. 

Can I bring my dog?

Dogs that are well-behaved in festival settings are welcome, but must be on a leash at all times.

Will I have cell service?

There is no cell reception at the festival site.  In case of emergency,  the staff of Black Caddis Ranch can assist you.

Firefly FAQ's

Where do fireflies come from?

Fireflies stay where you see them throughout their life cycle, unless conditions become unfavorable.

What kind of bugs are they?

Fireflies are beetles – they have a hard pair of wings on the outside, and underneath are the real wings with which they fly. They have 6 legs. They undergo a series of metamorphoses as they grow.

Do all fireflies glow?

We know the glowing species best, but there are many diurnal (daytime) species that don’t light up.

Why do different fireflies have different flash patterns?

Usually it’s the males who flash, to attract a female who is usually on the ground waiting to flash back when she sees a favorable flash pattern. Different species have distinctive flash patterns, so they can tell each other apart when there are a number of species in the same area.

What is the lifecycle of a firefly?

After adult fireflies mate, the females lay eggs near the ground or just below the surface of the soil. They prefer moist areas with leaf litter and undisturbed soils. The eggs hatch within the month, and stay in larval form (sometimes called glow-worms) for 1 or more years. They hibernate in the ground or under tree bark in the winter. They emerge in spring and feed heavily until they pupate (a pupa is a firefly stage just before adulthood, lasting only about two weeks until the transformation to adult).

How long do fireflies live?

Firefly adults only live for a few weeks – some species have longer to live as adults than others.

Do they bite? Are they poisonous?

They won’t bite you! Some adult fireflies are predatory, feeding on other firefly species whom they attract by imitating their prey’s flash patterns; others eat pollen & nectar. Firefly larvae eat soft-bodied creatures like slugs, snails and worms. Some fireflies are toxic to vertebrates like birds, amphibians, or mammals. Most firefly larvae glow, which may be a warning sign – “Don’t eat me!”

What makes fireflies light up?

In short, there is a biochemical reaction that takes place in their body that makes them glow.   The light that fireflies produce is called a “cold light” because it doesn’t give off heat the way most energy-consuming sources do (like fire, like sun, like many light bulbs, etc.)

(Longer: Fireflies have a protein in their bodies that combines with a catalyst, creating a glowing molecule that can be triggered by introducing a certain ion – sometimes calcium is the trigger.)

Are fireflies endangered?

Perhaps the greatest effect on firefly populations in the US is the destruction of their habitat. Environmental changes with negative impact such as pesticide use, light pollution and loss of habitat due to development are also believed to be causing significant decline in fireflies.                  

Why is this region so important to fireflies?

Forest County is a prime location for fireflies because of its large undeveloped tracts such as the Allegheny National Forest, Cook Forest and numerous state/local forest and parks in the region, as well as many public game lands. Large forested area means less disruption of habitat and the sparse human population means less light pollution. The relatively smaller number of farms means less pesticide use.

What kind of habitat is best for fireflies?

Fireflies do best when there is abundant leaf litter, moisture and undisturbed soils.

SOME BASICS ABOUT LOCAL FIREFLIES WITH “WOW”

Two kinds of fireflies that folks might not see in their backyards are SYNCHRONOUS fireflies and a local favorite called CHINESE LANTERNS.

CHINESE LANTERNS (Photuris versicolor complex) are perhaps the most beautiful sight of all. See them along Tionesta Creek, on “Firefly Island” near the bridge to Kellettville Campground. They are notable by their long, slow flash pattern. They hang in the air, flying so slowly when lit, and creating a sense of unhurried calm. To truly appreciate these fireflies you need to slow down and relax. Enjoy the night.

Earlier in the evening you may see them in the tall grasses, or hovering near the water. Perhaps due to high moisture in the air, their flashes sometimes appear more colorful. Later in the evening you will see them higher off the ground, or near upper stories of trees.

SYNCHRONOUS FIREFLIES (Photinus carolinus) put on quite a show – they are often seen in the woods and are easy to spot because the male fireflies flash in unison, often flashing several times in a row and then all going dark at once.

Synchronous firefly species are well known in Southeast Asia and were only verified in the US within the past few decades, notably in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. In Forest County, they were first reported in 2011, by campers in the Allegheny National Forest near Kellettville. In 2012, researchers came (the FIRE team – Firefly International Research & Education), sampled the firefly population, inventoried and did DNA testing and confirm that not only do we have the synchronous firefly (Photinus carolinus) but over 15 species of fireflies in our area.

HOW TO APPRECIATE FIREFLIES

Slow down. Sit down. Turn off your flashlight and put away your phone.

Watch the fireflies and see if you can tell different kinds apart by their flashing. See how many different species you can identify. Enjoy the peace and quiet!

Fireflies can be seen and appreciated in many parts of the East – explore new locations; report your findings at the national Firefly Watch, at the Boston Museum of Science.