Where Have All The Fireflies Gone?

by Marty Ryan

It began with a simple question: Where did all the lightning bugs go? Some people call them fireflies. Anyway, I have yet to see one this year. Looking back, it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen one.

The answer will come later. But the simple question led to research, of course. As with some research we conduct, we got off on a tangent. One website led to another and before you know it we were at the National Wildlife Federation’s site. The NWF was founded by Iowan Jay “Ding” Darling in 1936. Our recent knowledge of the fragility of the environment drew our attention closer.

Stephanie read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson last spring. I began reading it earlier this summer. It has been instrumental in our commitment to not using chemicals on our yard and garden. Another catalyst in not using chemicals has been the loss of tomatoes, apples, green and wax bean plants, strawberries and several other fruits and vegetables eaten by deer, birds, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, woodchucks and other species of birds and mammals. Nothing touches the zucchini.

Since we have refrained from chemical activity we have noticed an influx of bees and butterflies (especially Monarchs) in our yard. Refraining from chemicals (maintaining sustainable gardening) is one of the criteria necessary to be designated as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Other requirements are providing food and water for wildlife. Thanks to a thoughtful FL&R subscriber, we already have a few native prairie plants, many different types of berries, and several trees that provide food for animals.

We lacked a water source on the premises, but that didn’t stop Stephanie from creating a handmade birdbath and puddling areas for butterflies. A project we’ve had in mind for the past few years is a combination butterfly/rain garden. We’re going to begin working on that project this fall and through the winter.

We laughed when we saw the requirement that you have to provide cover for wildlife. We never intended to have that amenity for wildlife, but this spring a rabbit produced two litters of bunnies in our bean patch. Our bean patch is actually located in a 2×8 box of treated 2x12’s, and a nesting box is a qualifier for the certificate. We have a pile of branches that is also housing some creatures – probably woodchucks; or, quite possibly, another family of rabbits. The dog knows there is something in there.

We applied to be a Certified Wildlife Habitat through the NWF and have received our certification:




In a few weeks are to receive a sign that designates the backyard as a certified wildlife habitat. We can hardly wait. If your yard or apartment meets the qualifications, you can get one, too. Go to: http://www.nwf.org/pdf/Certified-Wildlife-Habitat/CWH-application_0810.pdfhttp://

We do have some amazing photo opportunities. However, most of what we see remains in our memories. I never knew what a hummingbird looked like. Now, it’s a weekly occurrence. Once a year I will see a blue marten or more, and there isn’t a marten house in the neighborhood. When I first moved to this house, an owl flew onto a branch of a dead apple tree not far from where I stood on my deck. Cardinals are permanent residents of our backyard. I’m beginning to learn the names of birds I have never seen before, or more correctly, never noticed before.

With all the wildlife in this neighborhood, I’m still missing lightning bugs. Lightning bugs don’t exist in urban areas. They’re fading away from rural areas as well. There is too much light pollution, chemical application, and development. After living most of my life in small town Iowa, I saw my share of fireflies. It took a long time to realize I wasn’t seeing them, and hadn’t seen any in a very long time.

They say you can’t go home again. Heavy sigh!




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