Saturday, July 4, 2009

They light up my life . . . less

Ahhhhhhh! Lightning bugs! Fireflies! dear familiar glowing and flickering signs of summer. This year, the first one was spotted and noted on June 27th. Now the question is, how long they'll linger this year. Meanwhile, various nature establishments and farms are offering firefly festivals and lightning bug walks.

The happy news is that these events are evidently publicized without fear of throwing a party that no fireflies (can) come to . . . because there are no fireflies. But late last summer, just as I was thinking I'd seen fewer lightning bugs than usual, I was unhappily surprised to hear a radio program on which the fade out of fireflies was the subject.

Reportedly, lightning bugs (like so many others in animalia) are in trouble. They're losing habitat and they're being affected by pesticides. (insecticides? both?) That was sad news but not really surprising once I stopped and thought about it. Beyond the habitat destruction caused by development seemingly everywhere, there's also the array of killers and deterrents that homeowners and communities spray in the interest of perfect green grass without dandelions and mosquito-free backyards, etc., etc.

Sure, individuals can go organic, no-kill and all the other good stuff. Entire communities can do the same. But they'll still be surrounded by those who develop and spray.

The NYTimes recently ran a fascinating science story about the different blink patterns (shades of lighthouses and their "characteristics"!) of male fireflies, and the reaction patterns of females. But so that future generations can see and enjoy this phenomenon, we must "save the lightning bugs!"

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