Pool floats, melamine, and uh, fireflies are the first signs of summer. This May, firefly colonies around the U.S. are gearing up for rare light show high up in the forests and mountains, starting with the Great Smoky Mountains on the Tennessee-North Carolina border.
You might remember catching them when you were younger, but did you notice their flashing pattern? Most fireflies differentiate their flashes to communicate, but rarer species are known to flash together in large swathes of synchronized light. This creates a glowing halo that floats around the forest with remarkable rhythm. Starting May 17th, visitors of Great Smoky Mountain National Park will get to see the exclusive phenomenon play out in front of them.
In the past, the park has offered tickets, tours and shuttle-bus services to the two-week performance, but years of selling out have made them introduce a lottery system. Applications for the 3-hour tour closed April 29th, with winners are announced this weekend, but don't lose hope! In 2012, a colony of a similar species was found in Pennsylvania's Allegheny National Forest. You'll have to wait until mid-June to catch it, but the park's open to the public—you just have to pay a $5 entry fee.
Want to see fireflies closer to home? Plant pine trees, turn off exterior lights and use organic fertilizer, according to firefly.org. These glowing insects are more than just fireside friends, these critters help get rid of mites and slugs, all while pollinating plants. Bonus: You'll be protecting the endangered species of bioluminescent bug!
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