Traveling to marvel at an amazing event called a synchronous firefly display has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Firefly flash patterns are part of their mating displays, which helps males and females recognize and find each other. The synchronous male fireflies flash in unison so females can be sure they respond to the males of their species. As more males join in, the flashing covers a larger area.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Tennessee and North Carolina, has a large synchronous firefly population. The problem, however, is that viewing the synchronous display has become so popular that the park can no longer accommodate all who want to see the display. Instead, Great Smoky Mountains now holds a lottery for parking passes.
Congaree National Park, in South Carolina, is also home to a large synchronous firefly population. Since demand to see that firefly display far exceeds the park’s capacity, it too uses a lottery system to ensure a fair distribution of parking permits.
There’s good news if you missed those two shows this year: There is another synchronous firefly display and there’s still time to see it.
The synchronous firefly display at Molly Branch Fireflies in Knox County, Tennessee, about 30 minutes from Knoxville, will take place from June 9–18, 2023. Perhaps best of all, you don’t need to enter a lottery to score tickets or parking passes.
“Visiting Molly Branch Fireflies is an amazing opportunity that isn’t available anywhere else in the area,” Molly Branch Fireflies told TravelAwaits in a statement. “The private setting provides plenty of parking and is handicap accessible, so all are welcome to participate. Experience the beauty of nature while being mesmerized by the hundreds of lightning bugs in a beautiful setting by a creek.”
About The Fireflies
There are more than 2,000 firefly species in the world, but only around a dozen of them can coordinate their flashes. Of that number, only three species of synchronous fireflies are found in North America, according to the National Park Service.
Two of the best-known species of synchronous fireflies are the Photinus Carolinus and the Snappy Syncs. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is well known for its Photinus Carolinus while Congaree National Park is known for its Snappy Syncs.
Snappy Syncs are also found at Molly Branch. Phausis Reticulata (blue ghosts) and Photuris Hebes (heebie jeebies) fireflies also live in the Molly Branch area; although males of those two species do not synchronize their flashes.
The difference between the Photinus Carolinus and the Snappy Syncs display is that the pattern for Photinus Carolinus is six or seven flashes followed by darkness for about six seconds, and then the pattern continues throughout the evening, according to Molly Branch Fireflies. Snappy Syncs, on the other hand, flash about 70 times per minute in unison without any periods of darkness.
How To See The Molly Branch Fireflies
Parking at Molly Branch Fireflies is free.
“Visitors will then enjoy a short but relaxing walk along a gravel road by a babbling creek as they make their way to the spot reserved for watching the fireflies,” Molly Branch Fireflies explains. “Finally, at the location, visitors will set up their chairs to look up the hill and up at the tree tops to see the various firefly species that live in the area.”
The firefly show will run June 9–18, from 7:30–10:30 p.m. every night.
The actual display begins after it’s dark, which is around 9:15 p.m. While the gates generally open at 6 p.m., event organizers suggest arriving before dark to find a good viewing area.
Tickets for the event generally sell out, so event organizers recommend buying them in advance.
You can learn more about fireflies and find answers to frequently asked questions at Molly Branch Fireflies Questions & Answers.