No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously during mating season. Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make better comparisons. The fireflies do not always flash in unison. They may flash in waves across hillsides, and at other times will flash randomly. Synchrony occurs in short bursts that end with abrupt periods of darkness.It is truly a spectacular site, and we encourage you to venture up to the Smokies this summer to watch the magic take place.
The following tips will help you get started on your journey to see the synchronous fireflies
- Starting at 7 p.m. a trolley from the Sugarlands Visitor Center will run every 20-25 minutes to the Little River Trailhead at Elkmont. The last trolley back leaves at 11 p.m. (no private vehicles will be allowed into the Elkmont entrance after 5 p.m.- the trolley is the only transportation in and out).
- Bring a blanket or a small lawn chair to sit on, a flashlight covered with red cellophane to minimize white lights, and a backpack with refreshments.
- No pets or alcoholic beverages allowed.
- If attempting to take pictures or video, do not use a flash. Not only does it disturb the fireflies, but your picture will turn out horrible. Try turning the flash off, setting your aperture to f11 and taking a long exposure of a few seconds. You’ll get a spooky looking glow…very cool!