Researchers discover the dangers of firefly tourism
In 2012, the firefly Expert Lynn Faust made a surprising call to the owner of Black Caddis, a bed and breakfast in the suburbs of Pennsylvania: There were reports of insects flashing in unison in the nearby woods. The team came to investigate and they needed a place to stay. Faust recalled: “They gave them all the rooms, as well as a two-car garage, where we built a laboratory full of vials, microscopes and fireflies.”
Faust is a member of the Firefly International Research and Education (FIRE) team, they are looking for Poinciana, One of the few species of synchronous fireflies in North America, which means that males gather in groups and flash to their companions at the same time. Scientists are not sure why this is done, although it may be that male cooperation attracts more women and allows them to compare suitors.
After two weeks of field research, flash time, microscopic examination and DNA analysis, the research team confirmed Their report Known as “a strong and widespread presence” Poinciana. At the time, in the United States, the only other known attractive bugs were in a small part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where thousands of tourists gathered here every summer to enjoy the amazing light show.
Ken and Peggy Butler, owners of Black Caddis, saw an opportunity for their county (one of the poorest in the state). The following summer, they formed a non-profit organization and held the first Pennsylvania Firefly Festival. When 400 people attended, they were blown away. But three years later, the festival swelled 1,000 people in one night, overwhelming their ability to manage the crowd. Ken Butler recalled: “Someone was running in the forest with a flashlight.” “We knew we were making mistakes. We couldn’t maintain the festival, let alone the habitat.”
The butlers are right to be discouraged.In March of this year, an international team of scientists released The first comprehensive study of firefly tourism, Warning watching events can well extinguish the stars in the show. Lead author Sara Lewis, professor of biology at the University of Tufts University and chairman of the Botany Federation, said that these insects are “not just dazzling things.” International Union for Conservation of Nature Firefly Expert Group. “These are real animals.”
In the United States, the firefly season begins in late May, when they perform courtship performances and About 200,000 visitors Go to the woods to watch.within the globe An estimated 1 million people Display ads to at least 12 countries/regions, social media has caused a great increase in interest. Through interviews and online surveys with scientists, tour guides, government officials, and independent entrepreneurs, Lewis’ team documented some of the risks that the crowd poses to fireflies.
Many species spend most of their lives underground or on the ground, and forgetful tourists trample them. Passenger flow also compresses fallen leaves and erodes the soil, causing larval fireflies to grow and degrade the habitat where prey is found. The light from flashlights, cameras, and phones confuses them and disrupts the brief courtship and mating windows. Moreover, because fireflies use chemical cues in addition to bioluminescence to attract and select partners, too much insect spray can cause them to lose their way.
The research provides anecdotal evidence of these issues from all over the world. For example, in Amphawa, Thailand, male fireflies create dazzling displays in the mangrove forests along the Mekong River. Motorboats and tourists waving flashlights caused about 80% of the insect extinctions. Excessive boat traffic has also eroded the river bank, causing the trees where the male fireflies are performing to collapse, and washed away the soil along the coastline, which is an important habitat for the larval fireflies.