Course Information and FAQ:

Questions? For registration and lodging questions, please contact registration coordinator Kayla Rankin at 937-365-1935 or email For all other questions, please contact Appalachian Forest School Host, Brent Charette, at 513-535-3042, or email

Cancellation Policy. You may cancel your reservation for full refund any time prior to 30 days before the course begins. After that time, cancellations are not permitted. Please try to find someone else to fill your place.

We will be relying heavily on the book, Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs, by Lynn Frierson Faust.  The book is included with your paid reservation. If you already have a copy of the book, you can save a little money. Just notify us that you do not need the book and you can deduct the cost of the book, $30.00, from your registration.

What background is required to enjoy this course? Anyone who has been entranced by the spectacle provided by these “summer sparks,” and is curious about the many unusual facets of their life and light will be naturally elevated by this course. Learning more about these truly amazing beetles is a great skill to possess, it will increase your enjoyment of the out-of-doors for the rest of your life. Complete novices and intermediate students are equally welcome to attend.

Cell phone coverage and internet: Please note that the Sanctuary is in a rural location in the foothills of the Appalachians. Cell phone coverage is spotty and connectivity depends on your phone service company. However, limited Wi-Fi is available at the Museum headquarters, and a short drive to Highway 50 connects to nearly every provider. Sprint is the only carrier that works on Cave Road.

Comfort in the Out-of-Doors: We will be spending most of our time in the field, so please pack clothing that will allow you to be comfortable for a variety of weather conditions, and for hiking at night. The program will go on rain or shine. At this time of the year, common daytime highs in southern Ohio are in the low eighties. Our schedule for firefly viewing takes us out in the cooler evenings and provides time for a siesta on Saturday afternoon.  Average temperatures at night are in the high fifties to low sixties, a sweater or light jacket might be a welcome addition.

Physical Capacity: Because the course is focused on outdoor activities, participants should be able to hike up to 2-3 miles a day sustainably without injury or severe discomfort. During this course we will be moving slowly, a pace well suited for firefly study. For the most part we will be following established trails, though they may be narrow and uneven at times.

Location. This course will be held in the tranquility of Highland, Pike, and Adams counties. The meeting location and meal hub will be at the Appalachian Forest Museum in the Highlands Nature Sanctuary.

Accommodations. Lodging is available in one of the Sanctuary’s beautiful overnight facilities, most of which are historic and all of which are tastefully and uniquely decorated. Lodging is optional but highly encouraged since you will be studying into the night and will probably want to crash into bed upon return. Lodges are anywhere from 1-5 miles from the workshop hub, but are still closer than most private lodges nearby. All lodges have kitchens or kitchenettes and one or more bathrooms on the hall. The exact lodge a registrant is assigned depends on the availability of the lodges on that particular weekend, and the type of room requested by the registrant. If you are coming with a partner, you may request a room with a double bed. If you are coming solo or with a friend, you may request a room with two twin beds; or alternatively, a room with a single bed and a double bed. If you are not coming with a partner but want to take advantage of the reduced rate of shared rooms, we will try to link you up with another registrant of the same gender. If we can’t find you a roommate, so long as you remain willing to share, even up to the last minute, we will honor your shared rate. If you wish to rent a private Sanctuary cabin or suite for the weekend, instead of renting a single room in one of our group lodges, you may do so, contingent on availability.

What if I want a private room? We have a very limited number of solo rooms and we encourage you to only go solo if you feel you would not make a good roommate for any reason so that we can save those private rooms for people who need them the most. You can also choose to upgrade to the Zen or Eyrie Suites which are private facilities for 1-2 people perched on the rim of the Rocky Fork Gorge, or Leatherwood Cabin with has two bedrooms, Earthstar which is a large stylish dome house with a king bed, and Toadstool, another dome structure with a full bed. If you upgrade, we will simply charge you the difference. Click here if you wish to familiarize yourself with the Sanctuary’s lodges. You may reserve these lodges online. That said, for Sanctuary lodging associated with a Forest School course, it is best to reserve by calling Kayla at 937-365-1935, or email at

Meals: Two meals are provided, dinner on Friday evening and again on Saturday evening. The Arc of Appalachia is well recognized for its fabulous meals that are often based on local organic produce. Meat and eggs are local and pasture-raised whenever available. All meals are provided with vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options. If you have food restrictions, please make a note on the registration form and we will let you know how well we can accommodate your needs. All lodges have kitchen facilities if you need to supplement your diet.

Flying in? Participants may fly into either Cincinnati or Columbus. Both airports are 1 hour and forty-five minutes away from the Sanctuary. Shuttles are not available so participants may need to rent a car. If you wish to car-share from your home or airport, please let us know and we will get you in contact with any other interested participants.

Additional Expenses: Registrants will be providing their own transportation to the Highlands Nature Sanctuary and to all field trip locations. Carpooling can usually be arranged with other participants for day trips, and such carpooling is often necessary since some of our locations have limited parking. We recommend you offer a modest gas cost contribution if you link up with another.

Emergency Messages: Emergency messages for course participants can be left at the main line of the Highlands Nature Sanctuary (937) 365-1935 during daytime hours.

Should I prepare for insects?  We experience very few mosquitoes and no black flies at the Sanctuary. You may encounter some ticks in the open fields and a few deer flies in low moist areas. If wander off trail into the grass (which is a good reason not to), you are likely to pick up chiggers. If any of these challenges are new for you, let us know and we will do our best to orient you. No exposure to at least some insects in southern Ohio is not a realistic expectation for outdoor field work. During every field trip there will inevitably be a few ticks. If you see them before they attach, they are not a problem. Just brush them off. It’s the ones you don’t see that might pose a problem. Since we DO have deer ticks in southern Ohio, please read below. Fortunately, because we are staying on the trails, we will not be encountering large numbers of ticks nor chiggers. Still – it’s best to prepared.

A Special Note on Ticks. We will be orienting everyone to ticks in order to minimize exposure to disease which can be carried to you by deer ticks, an exposure which is unlikely but possible. We highly recommend applying rose geranium oil to your legs and pants, which has proved to be a good deterrent. We also recommend a good tick check at night before or after showering. If you have a partner, use him or her to do the ‘primate preen.” If you don’t have a partner, employ a mirror and don’t forget to check your hairline.

The key to addressing Lyme’s disease risk is to be aware of symptoms and demanding proper diagnostic tests if you suspect the disease. You may know more than your doctor so being empowered is important. Lyme’s is treatable if detected in a reasonable time, but because deer ticks have not been in Ohio for very long, many doctors are slow to recognize the symptoms. Being informed and proactive provides you with the highest level of safety.  Here are some symptoms to remember, which tend to be flu-like:

  • Pain areas: in the joints or muscles
  • Whole body: fatigue, fever, or malaise
  • Joints: stiffness or swelling
  • Also common: appearance of large red blotches, sometimes with bulls-eye pattern,
  • Headache
  • Palsy

A Special Note on Chiggers. Chigger bites are very annoying if numerous, and are itchy but not dangerous. The best way to minimize or better yet, completely avoid, chigger exposure is to stay on the trail. Perhaps ironically, we have found that open-toed sandals attract less chiggers than socks and shoes. Chiggers love to bury into tight places between skin and clothing. Bare legs, especially ones doused with rose geranium oil or other deterrents, will deter ticks because you can easily feel the more common dog tick crawling up your legs, as well as visually see them and thus send them on their way. We are not necessarily recommending shorts and sandals during the day, but if you enjoy wearing them, then do so. You may fare better than your less scantily dressed colleagues.

Poison Ivy. We will not be going off-trail, so it is very unlikely you will be exposed to poison ivy. In any case, the leaders know the plant well and will help you avoid exposure. If you do touch the leaves, washing vigorously with soap within an hour avoids reactivity in most people.

What to bring to this course:

  • A copy of Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs, by Lynn Frierson Faust in hand or provided by us through your registration
  • Refillable water bottle which we recommend bringing to meals
  • Comfortable shoes for hiking and outdoor wear
  • A small day pack extra gear.
  • Rain gear
  • A notebook or clipboard and pen
  • Personal care items; soap, shampoo, etc. (towels, linens, and tissue are provided in the lodges)
  • Flashlight – VERY important for night viewing. We recommend a small pen light for walking. It will allow you to navigate without ruining your and others’ night vision. A stronger flashlight is great to illuminate a discovery, once an insect is found. A blue or red filter causes the least interference with the fireflies and is highly recommended.
  • Insect repellent for ticks and chiggers is recommended, see details above.
  • Optional: Your own first aid kit appropriate to your needs.
  • Pocket money for snacks and small purchases
Pyractomena marginalis Adult, Photo by John Howard
Photuris lucicrescens Adult, Photo by John Howard
Photo by David & Laura Hughes
Phengodes Female Adult, Photo by David & Laura Hughes