Lightning bugs and Fireflies: A conversation with Lynn Faust, Part 1

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For many of us in the eastern U.S., warm spring and summer nights are characterized by the methodical flashing of fireflies and lightning bugs. Fireflies and lightning bugs are exactly the same thing. I grew up calling them “lightning bugs,” but somewhere along the line picked up the term “firefly.” Now I use both terms interchangeably. It doesn’t matter what you call them, these flashing insects have the ability to bring out the child in all of us.

In this episode of the Backyard Ecology podcast, we talk with Lynn Faust. Lynn is the author of Fireflies, Glow-worms, and Lightning Bugs: Identification and Natural History of the Fireflies of the Eastern and Central United States and Canada. She is also sometimes called “The Lightning Bug Lady,” and with good reason as you’ll quickly learn when you listen to this episode.

Our conversation is very informal and includes lots of stories mixed in with more educational discussions. This episode is a little different than previous episodes because it is the first in a two-part series. Lynn is so knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and has so many great stories that I couldn’t fit everything into one episode. So, we’ll start our conversation in this episode, and then conclude our conversation in the next episode.

Often, we tend to think of lightning bugs as all being the same, but they aren’t. In the eastern U.S., we are very rich in lightning bug species and we’re still identifying new species. One of the things that I love about lightning bugs is that we can enjoy them on so many different levels. We can sit on our porches or in our lawn chairs and just appreciate their beauty. We can run around in our bare feet and catch them. We can learn the different flash patterns and begin identifying the species that we are seeing. Or anything in between.

In this episode, Lynn shares the story of how she went from just watching the lightning bugs to becoming “The Lightning Bug Lady.” We also talk about some of the different species found in the eastern U.S., how to identify firefly species, and the general life history of fireflies. In the next episode, we’ll continue our life history discussion. We’ll also talk about some exciting recent discoveries, threats to fireflies, ways we can make our yards more lightning bug friendly, and tips for observing fireflies. I hope you enjoy both these episodes.

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