Western Firefly Project: A Community Science Initiative
Did you know there are fireflies in Utah, New Mexico, and other western states?
For many years, the Natural History Museum of Utah's entomologist Christy Bills had heard anecdotes from Utahns about occasional firefly sightings. The purpose of this project is to continue to find fireflies in the western U.S. in unexpected places.
The Natural History Museum of Utah has partnered with scientists at BYU to track their populations throughout Utah, using the help of citizen scientists. Geneticists at BYU are researching the relationships of various species in Utah and how they, separated by hundreds of miles and geographical barriers, relate to the Eastern U.S. populations.
Photo credit to GeoEric from geocaching.com
Started in 2014 as the Utah Firefly Citizen Science Project, the project expanded to other western states in 2019. Since then, the Western Firefly Project has confirmed new populations of fireflies in Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, and Colorado.
Fireflies, also called lightning bugs, are beetles. Both males and females light up as a way to attract mates and deter predators. The oldest specimen in Utah is housed at the Natural History Museum of Utah, collected in 1929. Fireflies are not new to Utah, but we have much to learn about them. They are most often found in wet habitats from late May to early July (although outside Utah, populations might surprise us!) and start flashing around at dusk or sometimes later, near 10 pm.
Join the Western Firefly Project
Today, research benefits tremendously from the discoveries and contributions of Citizen Scientists around the world. The Natural History Museum of Utah currently hosts several Citizen Science projects, and we need your help! If you have observed fireflies in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, or Oregon, follow this link to submit your sightings.
Fireflies in Utah
Late May to early July is prime firefly spotting season in Utah, so keep your eyes peeled if you're exploring wet habitats after 9:30 p.m. Then, submit your sightings to the Western Firefly Project.