Synchronous Fireflies

Classification:  Animalia – Anthropoda – insect – Coleoptera – Polyphaga – Elateriformia – Elateroidea – Lampyridae

FirefliesAround June of each year, an insectile phenomenon occurs.  The fireflies in the Elkmont area begin to blink. Now, of course, you expect fireflies to blink but in this part of the Smokies – they blink in synchronization with each other!  This phenomenon occurs in only one other place in the world (Thailand).  Scientist are baffled by this behavior but the people that visit this area love it.

The synchronous fireflies light up the Smokies for a maximum of two weeks each year.  Normally this occurs in early June, but it can happen a little earlier or a little later depending on the weather and the hatching of the fireflies themselves.  And while there are fireflies all around the Smokies, the Elkmont area is the only place to see this strange and wonderful behavior.  As you sit beneath the trees of the Elkmont area, night begins to descend.  You start to see fireflies blinking as it gets darker and darker.  As the blinking increases, the fireflies start to synch with each other.  All of a sudden, the area is lit as thousands of fireflies flash their luminescent bodies in time with each other.  It is eerie, chilling and one of the most incredible things I have ever seen.

Firefly StarTrails

So if you are coming to the Smokies in June or around that timeframe and you want to take the family to see something that they will never see anywhere else here are a few tips:

  • The Park Service provides transportation for this event now!  If you are going to be here during the synchronous fireflies contact the park service at 865-436-1200 and make reservations.  You can park your car at Sugarlands and they will take you to Elkmont on trolley donated by Gatlinburg.
  • Bring chairs or a blanket.  You are going to be sitting outside for a while, waiting for the sun to go down.  You will need to have somewhere to sit or you are just going to need to pull up a patch of grass.
  • Bring a flashlight.  At the end of the night it is going to be dark.  On your way ou, a flashlight will help you navigate your way to the trolleys.  Remember though that your flashlight will need to be covered with a piece of cellophane or a colored lens so that the bright light doesn’t interfere with anybody else viewing the fireflies.