Now’s the time for fleeting firefly events in the mountains of Western North Carolina

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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firefly_2014This is the time of year to catch two magical firefly events in the mountains of Western North Carolina. One is the show that fireflies known as “blue ghosts” (because of the bluish tint to their glow) put on in Transylvania County. The other is the synchronous lightning bugs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the NC/Tenn. line. You’ve got to hurry, though. There’s only about one week left to see these glowing insects do their thing.

-The “blue ghosts” of Dupont State Forest: Head out to Transylvania County to see these rare fireflies. As described by their name, their light has a bluish tint to it. These guys also stay lit for several seconds – sometimes even a minute – at a time, adding to their uniqueness. Here’s more from an Our State magazine story about the fireflies from a few years back:

This lightning bug is fragile, Rosen tells us. It lives in the spongy leaf litter on the forest floor. If that litter gets too dry, they die. The female is earthbound. She lights up, presumably so the males can locate her. But even with a glowing abdomen, she’s hard to find. In his years of pursuing the blue ghost in four states, Rosen has observed thousands of males; he’s seen maybe 30 females. If their habitat is disturbed, it can take years for the population to recover.

Steinberg is disappointed by tonight’s weak showing. She wants the visitors to experience the magic of a blue ghost firefly display. She’s witnessed it more times than she can count, and she still gets excited at the sight of a handful of them. But she also knows that any fans she wins over will join those of us who believe we’ll always need woods. …

Blue ghosts don’t hang around for long. They flicker through DuPont State Forest for only about four weeks, starting in May. By mid-June, they’re hard to find. So Steinberg crosses her fingers and makes plans for one more trek into the woods, one more chance to marvel at a simple, fleeting wonder.

And here’s more about the synchronous fireflies of the GSMNP:

The extremely popular synchronous firefly event in Elkmont for 2014 takes place June 4-11. During this time, the entrance road to Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be closed to motor vehicles and pedestrians (except campers who are staying at the campground) beginning around 5pm each of those nights. To get access, there will be a shuttle that will pick passengers up at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near downtown Gatlinburg, TN. In order to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and ride the shuttle, you must purchase a parking pass, which goes on sale April 30 at 10:00am. These tickets sell out fast, so if you are at all interested, grab them while you can! …

One of the biggest questions that gets asked is how do synchronous fireflies work or why they sync up. We’re better off leaving that answer to the experts who provide a very scientific explanation on why it happens in the first of June, why the synchronous fireflies end up at Elkmont in the Smoky Mountains, why they sync their lights, and more. You can find all of the details of synchronized fireflies at the National Park Service website below:

Image link for blue ghost firefly.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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  1. Dane Barrager June 3, 2014

    I was at Elkmont last week and at DuPont forest on Friday and Monday nights. Both were great! To see the DuPont Blue Ghost fireflies, go the the High Falls parking lot, where the visitor center is, walk past the gate at the east end of the parking lot. There is a trail on your left which is easily visible because they put down new white stone. Walk 100 yards into the forest on the trail, turn off all lights, and prepare to be amazed! There is a short hike through the woods, then you can return by the road. It starts around 9:30 and lasts till about 11 pm.

    1. Don P. Moore June 7, 2014

      If you could only go to one location, which one would you choose? I am planning on going to Elkmont on Sunday night (with mobs of vacationers). I was wondering if the “display” of fireflies at DuPont forest would be just as spectacular.

    2. Shannon May 6, 2015

      Is there a charge or tickets for the BLue Ghost Firefly at DuPont?

      1. Kris Bryant May 19, 2015

        No, Shannon, DuPont forest is all free.


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