Fireflies – Early Season Spectacles

   June 4-5, 2021

    Nancy Stranahan, Arc of Appalachia Director

    & Brent Charette, Naturalist & Appalachian Forest School Host


Held at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary 


$185/person registration includes two meals and all curriculum.

$15 discount on registration for current Arc members

Optional 2-nights of lodging at the Sanctuary: 

$45/night/person shared; $75/night private room


A world of wonder! In June the greatest show on earth is performing in Ohio’s unmowed fields and forest edges. The season is filled with the summer flush of a dizzying diversity of fireflies that pursue their brief but dramatic lives beyond most people’s notice. That’s about to change for anyone attending this weekend course.

An illuminating Weekend. Two consecutive nights of field trips – with days free to rest and explore the Sanctuary on your own – will teach you the primary species and species complexes that are in courtship during this special week of firefly activity. In addition to learning to recognize the distinct flash patterns of each species, you will also learn about firefly conservation, ecology, and natural history. We have timed the weekend to coincide with what should be the peak of the synchronous firefly mating season. These unique creatures time their flash sequences enmasse, all males stop flashing simultaneously…and then begin again. Famous in the Great Smoky Mountains, we will visit Ohio’s own, recently discovered population of Photinus carolinus.

Our destinations. On Friday night we will immerse ourselves in the fireflies of Fort Hill, where we will see several species of fireflies gracing field and forest, distinguished by life history and habitat. Here we may have the opportunity to witness one of America’s flightless female fireflies, or glow worms, in the genus Phengodes called a “Railroad Worm.”  Spotting a railroad worm is on every firefly fanatic’s bucket list. One was spotted at Fort Hill in 2019, providing a unique experience of a lifetime. Saturday night will be spent in the backwoods of Adams County to the south of the Sanctuary where our eyes will feast on a different firefly display that includes the synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus), Photuris complex, Mr. Mac, Big Dippers, and more.

What You Will Learn & Experience:

  • Recognize several species of June-flashing fireflies by sight, flash pattern, season, and time of day
  • Recognize the most common firefly species that emerge right at dusk 
  • Observe one of Ohio’s rarest firefly spectacles, the synchronous fireflies, Photinus carolinus, as whole sections of the forest go dark simultaneously, then come back to light
  • Familiarize yourself with the yet undeciphered Photuris complex that light up the trees at night
  • Learn two species of day-time flying fireflies that do not light up as a adults.
  • What makes a firefly a firefly – and what are the look alikes
  • Predators of fireflies, including the long-legged Photuris that prey on smaller firefly species
  • Life cycles and life history
  • How to protect and enhance fireflies in your own backyard and farm
  • Receive handouts on identifying fireflies that are active during other months of the year
Photo by David & Laura Hughes
Adult Female Phengodes, Photo by David & Laura Hughes
Pyractomena margenalis Adult, Photo by John Howard
Photuris lucicrescens Adult, Photo by John Howard