Bringing Lightning Bugs to Your Yard

Perhaps the most magical part of summer nights is watching fireflies blink light up the twilight sky. 

Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are the only flying, bioluminescent insects found in Missouri. The glowing bugs are actually beetles that spend most of their lives as larvae living in soil, leaf litter, and under rotting logs. Gardens can be a perfect habitat for lightning bugs to thrive. If you’d like to attract these sparkling insects to your yard, follow these tips from the Kemper Center for Home Gardening and the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House.

Grow Out Your Grass

During the day, adult lightning bugs spend their time in shrubs, grasses, or other taller vegetation. Welcome fireflies into your yard by adding these plants to your garden. Frequent mowing of your lawn can disturb adult lightning bugs. If not mowing isn’t an option for you, consider adding a separate lightning bug habitat in your yard instead.

Create a Habitat

Lightning bug larvae thrive in moist soil with plenty of organic matter where they can eat snails, slugs, grubs, and worms. Using leaf litter in your garden will make the soil an ideal home for lightning bug larvae. Leave logs and other debris to decay naturally if you have the space.

Cut Out the Chemicals

If you want lightning bugs, and other beneficial insects, in your yard, avoid using chemical insecticides or herbicides on your lawn or garden. Not only can these chemicals harm lightning bugs, but they also harm the food they eat as larvae.

Turn the Lights Down

Light pollution can negatively affect the ability of lightning bugs to reproduce, thus reducing their populations. Consider turning off your outdoor lights when lightning bugs are active, or install motion sensing outdoor lights that won’t stay on all the time.

Catch and Release

As you watch the fireflies shine in your yard each night, your kids might want to try to catch them. Catching lightning bugs is a fun summer tradition that can give kids a chance to see the insects up close. The best approach is to gently catch them in a clear, clean jar and release them that night. If you leave lightning bugs in a jar overnight, 90 percent of the time they will die, even with air holes. You can usually scoop fireflies up with the jar or hold the jar in their path so they fly into it.

Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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