Types Of Fireflies

There are over 150 species of fireflies in North America. Identifying them is not always easy, and there is consequently much debate over how many different species are found in North America. Sometimes the only way to tell two different species apart is to examine their internal organs – an experience most unpleasant for the firefly.

Not all fireflies flash, but those that do come in three main genera (groups of closely related species):

  • Photinus
  • Pyractomena
  • Photuris

Photinus

With about 15 species living in New England, the Photinus is the most common firefly to the area.  Each is about one half inch in length, and it produces a yellow-green flash.

Pyractomena

Pyractomena is about the same size as Photinus, but its flash is often amber colored, like an ember flickering from a campfire. Its pronotum (head covering) has dark edges. New England has many fewer species of Pyractomena than Photinus.

Photuris

The Photuris firefly is the biggest of the three genera, about an inch long, with very long legs. It often has a slight diagonal line on its wings. The Photuris's dark-green flash can be more green and brighter than that of Photinus, but these fireflies are difficult to identify, and researchers are unsure of how many different species live in New England.

View a list of all 16 N.A. firefly genera
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