Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 25

Sex, Bugs &
Rock 'n' Roll
THE BIG SMOKY
MOUNTAIN LIGHT SHOW
IN LATE MAY/EARLY JUNE
IS A SIGHT TO BEHOLD.
by Joe Tennis
YOU WOULDN'T THINK WAITING in the woods of the
Great Smoky Mountains National Park would have
anything akin to a rock concert. But consider the
spring rush to see the magical synchronized light show
by fireflies each spring at Elkmont, Tennessee.
Once the park announces shuttle reservations are
available in April, you better act quickly. "They fill up
within a matter of about 10 minutes," says Dana
Soehn, park spokeswoman. "It's like trying to get a
ticket to your favorite rock concert."
These insects do not light up just for you; what
they're doing is pitching woo.
"What makes them really special is they only
emerge and have this mating behavior for about a twoweek
period," Soehn says. "And, when they emerge,
the males will start to synchronize their flashing behavior.
By the peak of that mating season, they will be
flashing in synchronicity. And the females are staying
down lower, like in the leaf litter on the ground layer."
The girls watch the boys: The male fireflies flash
four to six times. Then the sky will go black - for about
six seconds.
"Then they start together again," Soehn says. "So
it's almost like this Christmas tree effect. It's just spectacular.
You have this really bright night sky whenever
they're flashing all together, and then it's just black."
The female fireflies emit a very dim light. "It's hard
for us to detect it, because it's so dim," Soehn says. "But
the males certainly are attracted to it. As they're flashing,
it cues the females to emit their flashing. It helps
them find each other."
BRC
Click for video or visit
BlueRidgeCountry.com/Fireflies.
The show runs from about 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
"Then, when it's done, it's done."
And so are the fireflies. They'll mate and die, all
within about three weeks.
"So, after the show, it's pretty much over," Soehn
says. "That's the life cycle."
Only a limited number of passes are available for
the park's shuttle, says Becky Nichols, an entomologist
at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
"It's very interesting when you walk out there and
people are settled down, and they're getting ready for
darkness," Nichols says. "There's just kind of a silence."
Usually, this show happens in late May and early
June. For decades, this phenomenon of the species
known as photinus carolinus had been familiar among
the residents of Elkmont's summer cottages. "But they
really didn't differentiate it from other fireflies," Soehn
says. "They just knew that their fireflies from Elkmont
were special."
Elkmont is special, too.
"It's a really unique floodplain kind of forest,"
Soehn says. "But we have found that if we look at the
right elevation, in very similar forest types, that we're
finding them in other areas of the park. And people
are starting to report them in like habitats outside of
the park."
But, don't get too excited about trying to find this
show on the road.
"We haven't seen a population center as dynamic
as the one at Elkmont," Soehn says. "There's no real
hotspot other than Elkmont." 
WANT MORE?
nps.gov/grsm
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2015 | 25
The male fireflies at
Elkmont put on quite a
show in the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park.
They all flash at once in
the woods of Tennessee,
but you have to act
quickly to see the show. It
lasts for only about two
weeks.
http://www.BlueRidgeCountry.com/Fireflies http://www.BlueRidgeCountry.com/Fireflies http://www.nps.gov/grsm

Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015

Letters
From the Editor & Digital Help Guide
Mill Creek Stories
Creature Feature
The Hike
Great Buys
Mountain Report
Country Roads
Creature Feature
Festivals & Events
The Curios: Our Annual Compendium of the Strange
North Georgia: A Foodie Haven
Why We Travel: The Photoessay
The 2015 Blue Ridge Country Travel Guide: A Year of Experiences
The Weekend: Harpers Ferry and Western Maryland
The Old Stone Chimney
Cabin in the Woods: Fiddler’s Roost
Mountain Garden
Guest Column: Author Stephanie Jeffries
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 2
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Letters
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - From the Editor & Digital Help Guide
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 7
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Mill Creek Stories
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Creature Feature
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - The Hike
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Great Buys
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Mountain Report
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 14
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 15
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Country Roads
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 18
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Creature Feature
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Festivals & Events
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 21
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 22
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - The Curios: Our Annual Compendium of the Strange
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 24
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 25
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 26
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - North Georgia: A Foodie Haven
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 28
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 30
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Why We Travel: The Photoessay
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 35
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 37
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - The 2015 Blue Ridge Country Travel Guide: A Year of Experiences
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 39
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 40
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 41
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 42
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 43
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 44
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 45
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 46
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 47
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 48
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 49
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 50
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 51
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 52
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 53
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - The Weekend: Harpers Ferry and Western Maryland
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 55
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 56
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 57
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 58
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 59
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - The Old Stone Chimney
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Cabin in the Woods: Fiddler’s Roost
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 62
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 63
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Mountain Garden
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Guest Column: Author Stephanie Jeffries
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2015 - Cover4
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