As one of 19 firefly species that’s only found in the Smoky Mountains, the synchronous firefly certainly gets a lot of attention for a couple of weeks each late spring and early summer.
Also known as “lightning bugs,” these fireflies show up in a specific part of the Smoky Mountains National Park and put on a dazzling synchronized show that few man-made electric lights can match and few people are lucky to witness.
Roughly 12,000 lucky visitors will see the show. Its popularity has reached the point where a lottery allows visitors access to the event. Another factor that contributes to its mystique is the scientists’ announcement about when it happens. Looking at temperature trends, soil moisture and the initial appearance of the fireflies, they then estimate when the peak time will be for the fireflies to make their major appearance, usually between mid May to mid June near Elkmont.
Here are some essential facts of which you should be aware if you’d like to come and see this astounding and unique natural light show. Be aware that once the announcement occurs, the lottery for vehicle passes opens a few days after that.
What makes the synchronous fireflies so special?
Basically, they are the only species that time the patterns of their flashing lights in a synchronized pattern. This happens primarily for mating purposes. Some insects emit a green-yellow light, while others give off a blue light. The males fly around, but the females remain stationary, and they somehow find each other. The whole spectacle looks like a magical display that only Mother Nature could create.
How does the lottery work?
This year, the announcement for the event dates takes place on April 26th. Visitors can register for the parking pass lottery three days afterward on April 29th at noon Eastern Time, until May 2nd at 8 PM ET. They get to choose two dates, one preferred and one alternate, and one household may apply once each season. A randomized computer drawing selects the application.
On May 10th, the Park will notify applicants if they have been successful in securing a pass for the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking and the shuttle to Elkmont, where most of the synchronous fireflies gather. While there is no fee to enter the lottery, visitors must pay $1.50 reservation fee if they get a pass.
If we get a pass, what should we expect?
Sometimes weather affects how visitors see the fireflies. Cooler temperatures often postpone the event for the evening, and misty conditions will affect the visibility of the display.
No matter how the weather behaves, some etiquette guidelines will help you and other enjoy the experience even more:
- Cover your flashlight with red or blue cellophane to cut down on glare
- Use the flashlight to get to your viewing place, point it to the ground and turn it off once you’ve arrived there
- Stay on the trail at all times, and take out any garbage your might have
- Never catch the fireflies
This video walks you through the live show so we can see every detail!
Staying at Christopher Place Bed and Breakfast Resort makes a perfect end to the night, where you can relax after seeing the synchronous fireflies and recall what you’ve seen with other guests over a drink in the library lounge. Contact us today, and don’t forget to apply for this unforgettable wonder.
Photo by s58y on Flickr.