The First Firefly of Summer

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Cheri spotted it (I didn’t): the first firefly of summer.

She saw it on the evening of June 1. Yes, we know it technically isn’t summer yet. That doesn’t arrive this year till June 20.

But it sure feels like summer, with temperatures suddenly spiking into the 90s. Seasons are all higgledy-piggledy nowadays anyway, what with climate change.

As I wrote recently, there’s no longer any first robin of spring. Another climate-change casualty, perhaps. Or maybe a casualty of something else.

But part of being human is that we crave milestones and markers. We crave firsts.

If we can’t have that first robin, then at least we still have our first firefly!

I emphasize “our” because I realize the one Cheri saw may not have been, literally, the first of this year. Maybe someone else noticed an early-rising firefly even earlier. But not much.

A while back, I wrote about the amazing synchronized fireflies of the Great Smokey Mountains. This local harbinger means those will be out soon, in full force.

Those still are as mysterious as ever. But Cheri and I love the little, ordinary, randomly blinking lightning bugs we have right here at Stonehaven.

What are your favorite seasonal firsts?


The First Firefly of Summer — 9 Comments

  1. I saw my first firefly last night too! Also saw the synchronized ones in the Smokies several years ago. What an experience. Walking about one mile past all the others there, the fireflies were on a hillside going up and down like a stadium wave. The rest were just on the ground along the path. All were mesmerizing!

    • When Kerry Carlson and I saw the synchronous fireflies near Elkmont in the Smokies, I wanted very much to capture them on video — but couldn’t. Now, however, years later, there are a number of YouTube videos of the phenomenon. Some just show the fireflies themselves; others focus more on things like the tourism they generate, interviews with the park entomologist, and whatnot.

      My favorite video:

      This one (which I recommend viewing full-screen) shows what seems almost like a strobe effect. It’s the video that best replicates what I saw. In some others, the synchronizing isn’t nearly as intense. Maybe this depends on darkness, atmospheric conditions, firefly population density, or something else. Scientists have a lot of theories about how and why this works, but no for-sure answers — yet!

    • Why should you hate to say that, dear Mahin? The first watermelon is another wonderful way to mark a change of seasons. For Cheri and me, that first bite of the first melon always is a grand celebration.

  2. I have not seen a firefly in a very long time. I think it’s at my friend’s house, the last time I saw the cute tiny creature. I love them and the one that had landed on my palm when I were a kid, by some coincidence, looked so amazing! 🙂

    • Is my impression correct, Priya Sharma, that you live in India? Google lists a lot of articles about fireflies in India — but India is a large place, and in many parts of the world, firefly populations are declining. Perhaps yours is one of those regions?

      Your memory of fireflies landing on your palm is one that many of us share. It’s always amazed me how trusting and unafraid fireflies are: You can reach out and wave, and they do land and walk around on your hand, blinking. What other insect or creature does that?

      • That’s possible. My mom confirmed that they haven’t seen many ever since they moved to this city.

        Actually, in this new area we’ve moved, I haven’t even seen many frogs (just one!) either. There were too many in the previous one. It was as if they rained in the summer. 😀

        I haven’t seen fireflies again. Those rare times I did, it’s always a lone firefly. I want to see many of them together. 🙂

        • Hmm. Wonder whether there’s a connection between the scarcities of frogs and fireflies?

          When I was a kid, my mom had a gift for gathering frogs around her in her garden. They weren’t afraid of her, and knew she’d sometimes toss them bugs. Since she liked fireflies, she didn’t feed them those — but sometimes I’d see a frog’s tongue flick out and catch a stray firefly anyway. Then you could sometimes see it flickering on and off, through the skin of the frog’s throat, as the frog swallowed it.

          Here’s hoping that story doesn’t gross anyone out. ≧◔◡◔≦ At the time, watching my mom hold court over her frogly audience, there was something charming and magical about it all.

  3. Like Priya, I have to say, I hadn’t seen a firefly in India for decades before I came to The US.

    When I was little my cousins and I, would hang out outside and watch fireflies, catch and release them. This particular memory goes hand in hand with looking at stars from my grandparents’ courtyard. I remember seeing stars and then seeing constant, non-blinking, moving “stars” some of which were white and one had a reddish tint.

    I was scared that it was some kind of flying monster in the sky. Now I realize it was not a plane, not at that speed and at that altitude. Those were satellites! This was when I was around 6-7 yrs old, so in 1981-82ish, in the middle of, height of, the Cold War and India at the time being a USSR ally was probably an American surveillance target.

    Anyway… back to fireflies. I hadn’t seen any since when I was in my teens for the next 15 years. The only time I saw fireflies again was at a friend’s wedding in Maryland, in 2009. It was as if I was seeing them for the first time and my exuberance may not have been fitting for my age. Arizona is too arid for any of these wonders. I would love to live on the east coast (or any coast) with more rain and moisture and greenery, where nature’s magic still is in play.

    I was wondering that I get older and busier, the world seems to become more boring and full of drudgery. My kids don’t see it the same way and I should use my time with them to reactivate my youthful ways.

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