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Tuesday May 31, 2016
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Fewer Fireflies?

 

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"There used to be lots of fireflies," agrees Arsenio Ablao, a Pauline Boulevard resident, "but not lately. I don't see them much anymore."

What's going on? It's not clear.

"They seem to be fine at my house," says Mark O'Brien, insect collections manager at the U-M Museum of Zoology. "All insects have population fluctuations, and what may seem to be a dearth of one species in one area may only be a blip."

In fact, along much of the East Coast, some say this has been the best summer in memory for fireflies--perhaps because of rainy weather.

But Jim Lloyd, a University of Florida professor who has studied fireflies for almost half a century, is convinced they're declining. "Everything that I've seen down here in Florida and as I've traveled around the country indicates there aren't anywhere near as many as there used to be," he says. "Over the past thirty-five years, I've seen fewer and fewer and fewer."

Possible causes, Lloyd says, are increased artificial light, which makes it harder for the romantically inclined to find each other; a lowering of water tables from pumping groundwater, which reduces the number of snails and earthworms that firefly larvae feed on; and habitat loss.

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