Mass Audubon Firefly Watch–Citizen Science in action

Also known as “lightning bugs,” fireflies are neither bugs nor flies—they’re actually beetles that light up using a chemical reaction in their lower abdomen (the bottom part of their body). Some of them light up in a specific blinking pattern, like a secret code that they use to “talk” with other fireflies and to find mates. Flashes can be quick or long-lasting, and one kind is in a j-shape.

Are firefly populations growing or shrinking, and what could lead to changes in their populations? Mass Audubon has teamed up with researchers from Tufts University to track the fate of these amazing insects. With your help, they hope to learn about the geographic distribution of fireflies and what environmental factors impact their abundance.

Join a network of citizen scientists around the country by observing your own backyard, and help scientists map fireflies. Anyone in North America can participate in Firefly Watch. Just spend at least 10 minutes once a week during firefly season observing fireflies in a single location. All firefly sightings — or lack thereof — are valuable!

Learn more about fireflies and participate in the Firefly Watch this summer.

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