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Western Firefly Project: A Community Science Initiative

A firefly

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 been hearing anecdotes from Utahns about occasional firefly sightings. The purpose of this project is to continue to find fireflies in the western U.S. in places where they are not expected to be. 
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 and how the populations in Utah, that are separated by hundreds of miles and many geographical barriers, are related to the Eastern U.S. populations.
Photo credit to GeoEric from

Project Background

Started in 2014 as the Utah Firefly Citizen Science Project, the project is expanding to other western states in 2019. Since its inception, the Western Firefly Project has confirmed new populations of fireflies in Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, and Colorado.  

Submit a Sighting

What are fireflies?

Fireflies, also called lightning bugs, are beetles and both males and females light up as a way to attract mates and deter predators. The oldest specimen collected in Utah is housed at the Natural History Museum of Utah and was 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 10pm.

Join the Western Firefly Project

Today, research benefits greatly from the discoveries and contributions of Citizen Scientists around the world. The Natural History Museum of Utah currently hosts a number of 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.

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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.

Watch The Video

Below is an example of what to look for--a wet meadow in late May through June. Please note our map that had locations of sightings is down for maintenance as people were visiting private land where fireflies had been spotted. This was at the request of various private landowners. We're working on a new map. 

image of a wet field with tall green grass
image of a wet field with tall green grass

Read more about western fireflies on the Museum's blog.


If you are in eastern states, contribute your firefly sightings to Firefly Watch.



About Fireflies!

Find more information about fireflies here!
To learn more about Bioluminescence, click here!

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