North American Firefly Genera

Fireflies can be divided into three groups, depending on their method of attracting a mate: fireflies that flash, fireflies that glow, and fireflies that use pheromones, or chemical signals. In North America, there are over 250 species of fireflies in 16 genera.

Fireflies that flash

Photinus

34+ species

Widely distributed

Photo credit: Don Salvatore

Pyractomena

16 species

Widely distributed

Photo credit: Don Salvatore

Photuris

22+ species

Widely distributed

Photo credit: Don Salvatore

Micronaspis

1 species

Occurs in saltmarshes along Florida coast

Bicellonycha

1 species

Occurs in southern Arizona at elevations 4,000 - 6,000 feet

Photo credit: Doug Danforth

Fireflies that glow

Pleotomus

3 species

Both male and female glow. Female have reduced wings and are flightless.

Photo credit: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

Microphotus

7 species

Occurs in southwestern US

Females are wingless. Both females and males glow.

Photo credit: Alex Wild

Phausis

7+ species

Females are wingless. In most species, males do not produce light.

Photo credit: Jennifer Frick

Pleotomodes

3 species

Occurs in Florida and Arizona

Females are wingless

Females and larvae live in ant nests. Both males and females glow.

Fireflies that use pheromones

Ellychnia

12 species

Widely distributed

Active during the day.

No adult light organs.

Photo credit: Don Salvatore

Brachylampis

3 species

Occurs in California

Active during the day.

Lucidota

3 species

Widely distributed

Light organs feebly developed but rarely or not used.

Active during the day.

Photo credit: Monique van Someren

Pyropyga

4 species

Widely distributed in US

Lacks light organs

Active during the day

Photo credit: Don Salvatore

Paraphausis

1 species

Occurs in Arizona

Active during the day

Males have light organs. Females unknown.

Pollaclassis

1 species

Occurs in eastern half of US

Pterotus

2 species

Occurs in western US

Photo credit: Kevin Lentz


Volunteer to share your observations of fireflies in your backyard — no special scientific training required.
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You might see more than one type of firefly in your yard. New England fireflies fall into three main groups, and they can be identified by flash color, pattern, and location. Check out the Virtual Habitat to see what fireflies might look like in action.

- Go to the Habitat