Understanding Fireflies

Visiting a firefly meadow on a summer evening is a memorable experience, but what exactly do you see? How many different types of fireflies are among the flashing lights? Can you tell if they are male or female? Why are they flashing? What is a firefly, anyway?

Blinking Beetles

Also known as lightning bugs, fireflies are neither bugs nor flies; they are actually beetles, which have two pairs of wings. The outer pair, called elytra, are hard and held outright during flight like the wings of an airplane. The softer inner pair beat to power and control the beetle's flight.

What Do They Look Like?

Like all insects, fireflies have six legs and three body parts. The upper part of the middle segment, the thorax, extends over a firefly's head and is called the pronutum. Since they are creatures of the night, fireflies also have large eyes.


Volunteer to share your observations of fireflies in your backyard — no special scientific training required.
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Observing fireflies is a great summer activity. Join our network of volunteers and track your sightings throughout the season.
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Pick a location, observe it weekly, and use our online tools to follow your progress.
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Keep a firefly notebook of your observations. You'll be amazed by how much you begin to notice when you write down what you see!

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