Charleston, South Carolina - Stories from the Road: Roland and I have been traveling with Leave No Trace for 18 months. We have been to the East Coast, to the West Coast and to the East Coast again. We have driven over 35,000 miles, been through 35 different states and have slept over 300 nights in a tent. It’s hard to recall all the individual campgrounds, parks, forests, and mountain areas we have called home for the night. It’s a lot – that’s all I know!
We’ve seen various lakes, rivers, oceans, trees, plants and wildflowers; the names of which are too great to list. We’ve spotted, seen or been visited by ravens, turtles, snakes, bees, owls, mosquitos, skunks, eagles, fox, butterflies, bears, ants, hummingbirds, lizards, hawks, possums, cardinals, frogs, spiders, armadillos, beetles, blue jays, mice, hogs, alligators, and squirrels – to name a few wild creatures.
In all the places we’ve been and all the wild things we’ve seen, we have never been able to find fireflies! Fireflies or Lightning Bugs are enchanting and mysterious little insects. What makes these insects so endearing? The fascination is in their luminescent bodies that glow in the night. Fireflies have dedicated light organs that are located under their abdomens. The insects take in oxygen and, inside special cells, combine it with a substance called Luciferin to produce a “cold” light.
Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world - 100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Firefly light is usually intermittent, and flashes in patterns that are unique to each species.
Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. Despite their, name, fireflies are not flies at all; they are nocturnal winged beetles. They don`t bite, they have no pincers, they do not attack, they are not poisonous, and their visual display is absolutely beautiful. They are the gentlest insects known.
Everyone can picture this scene: A large, open grassy meadow. The sun is setting in the distance, casting a beautiful dim light across the field. The air is warm and a slight breeze moves through the sky, making the grass dance as it passes by. There are kids skipping freely in the meadow, holding glass jars in their out stretched hands. If you look closely, you will notice a small flicker of light sailing above the grass. As you keep watching, you see a multitude of little lights appear, as if out of nowhere. The lightning bugs have come out to play! And the children are doing their best to capture the glowing insects inside their glass jars. After some time and effort, the jars are full of tiny flickering fireflies and the kids are laughing with joy as the sun disappears from the sky. They let their jars empty as an orchestra of light explodes back into the night sky…
That is the scene we are in search of! We want to recreate this magical childhood past time. We want to frolic in a meadow awestruck by the glowing butts of lightning bugs!
There are certain factors needed to see a firefly:
Fireflies come out in the summertime and live in various habitats. Many species thrive in forests, fields, or the margins between them.
Most firefly species have one thing in common: standing water. They live near ponds, streams, marshes, rivers and lakes, but they don't need a lot of water to get by.
Fireflies love long grass in humid, warm environments.
Our circumstances in comparison:
Spring has arrived and summer is right around the corner! We camp in forests and fields every night.
The campgrounds we stay at are almost always near rivers and lakes where long grasses grow.
We are currently traveling in the Southeast, where it is warm and humid.
The necessary factors are lining up perfectly for us! We will keep our eyes peeled and our fingers crossed. Our lightning bug experience is coming soon – I just know it!
Ninjas for Nature – Dani & Roland
Leave No Trace’s Dani and Roland Mott are part of the 2014 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Coleman, Hi-Cone, The North Face, REI, Smartwool and Yakima.