For the 50+ Traveler

Remember the summer nights outside when all of the fireflies would come out, blinking randomly and creating an unpatterned array of lights around you? Well, imagine a bunch of those same fireflies all blinking at the same time! This actually happens at Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.

A photo of the synchronous fireflies in the Smoky Mountains

Mating In The Mountains

Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of the 19 firefly species that live in the Great Smoky Mountains, and they are the only ones that can synchronize their flashing lights. Their light patterns are connected to their mating signals. Each species has its own flash pattern that helps the males and females recognize each other. The males fly around flashing and searching for the perfect lady firefly, while the females respond with a stationary flash. How is that for a laugh? The boy chases the girl in the firefly world, too!

Park rangers monitor the trolley to view the synchronous fireflies

How To See The Lights

It’s that time of the year, and the synchronous fireflies are back. For two weeks every year during the mating season (the dates depend on the temperature and soil moisture), a few fireflies start flashing; a flashing frenzy soon commences as more fireflies join in. Once the majority of the insects are lighting up each night, the peak of the mating season has been reached, and the number of flashes begins to decline. The quality of the nightly displays depends on various environmental factors, including the moon’s phase, the temperature, and the amount of rainfall. This year’s show is set to take place between May 30 and June 6.

Parking passes for the event are limited and must be purchased from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Shuttles transport visitors from the designated parking area to the Elkmont viewing area where the firefly show takes place. The park holds a lottery for parking passes and viewing supplies; it costs $1 to enter, but unfortunately, the lottery for this year has closed. It was held from April 26 to April 29, and the results were announced on May 10. Regular parking passes cost $24 per vehicle.

Fireflies in the Smoky Mountains

Before attending the event, be sure to head over to the website to learn more about light show etiquette. Flashlights disrupt the fireflies and can annoy those around you; it’s important to use them properly and to make sure you aren’t harming the fireflies.

Soon the fireflies will make their grand entrance. Worried that you’ll miss this year’s show? Be sure to bookmark this page for next summer’s adventures. Keep an eye on the website for information about next year’s lottery, when to purchase parking passes, and when the synchronous fireflies will make their next appearance.

Another Chance To View Synchronous Fireflies

If you missed the fireflies in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can witness them at Molly Branch Fireflies in Corryton, Tennessee. Snappy syncs (Photinus frontalis) are the synchronous fireflies that flash here once a year, usually during June. This year’s viewings will take place between June 3 and June 17 from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. each evening. Tickets can be purchased online; they cost $10 for adults and $5 for children, and infants can enter for free. Tickets are also available for purchase at the gate; they cost $15 for adults and $8 for children. Check the homepage for updates on display nights.

Photo Credit: Songdech Kothmongkol / Shutterstock

Photo Credit: WUT.ANUNAI / Shutterstock