Posted by Darryl Payne in Smoky Mountains
It’s kind of interesting that for a couple of weeks every summer, one of the biggest Gatlinburg attractions isn’t a ride, a show or a museum. For a couple of weeks in early to mid-June, the biggest attraction is the appearance of the synchronous fireflies in the Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in the park. They are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns. Their light patterns are part of their mating display. The males fly and flash and the usually stationary females respond with a flash.
No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make better comparisons.
The fireflies do not always flash in unison. They may flash in waves across hillsides, and at other times will flash randomly. Synchrony occurs in short bursts that end with abrupt periods of darkness.
Flashlights disrupt the fireflies and impair people’s night vision. The light show is best when you:
• Cover your flashlight with red or blue cellophane.
• Use your flashlight only when walking to your viewing spot.
• Point your flashlight at the ground.
• Turn off your flashlight when you find your viewing spot.
All visitors wishing to view the fireflies from June 2 to 10 must ride a trolley to Elkmont from Sugarlands Visitor Center. Advance reservations are required for the trolley, which departs at 7 p.m. and costs $1 per person. Call 865-436-1200 for more information.
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