Synchronous Fireflies Put on a Pretty Show

The start of summer in the Great Smoky Mountains means it’s time for the mysterious and beautiful Synchronous Fireflies show.

The viewing of these rare synchronized fireflies is something to behold if you happen to catch them in their brief mating season during your stay at White Oak Lodge and Resort.

These ethereal insects leave onlookers in awe when they come together and flash in a synchronous manner during their mating display. One will start to flash, and before you know it, the woods in front of you light up with thousands of them flashing. Then it all comes to a halt leaving the woods dark until another firefly flashes and starts the process all over.

This year’s formal watching of the fireflies will take place June 2 through June 9. Tickets reserve a spot for visitors to park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center where they can then purchase a pass to ride the shuttle to Elkmont to view the fireflies.

If you can’t get a pass to attend, there’s always next year. Or, you may try to catch them on your own, as their mating period lasts for approximately two weeks and can be seen at other locations throughout the National Park.

Because experts don’t know exactly when the fireflies will begin their light show, or even why they synchronize, it’s impossible to predict the event in advance. However, every year since 1993, the event has occurred at various times from late May to mid-June.

Fun Facts:

  • Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are one of at least 19 species of fireflies that live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but they are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns.
  • Fireflies are a type of beetle.
  • Synchronous fireflies live as adults for only 21 days.
  • Fireflies combine the chemical luciferin and oxygen with the enzyme luciferase in their lanterns (part of their abdomens) to make light.
  • Flashlights disrupt the fireflies and impair your own night vision. It’s best to only use a flashlight to walk to the spot or cover the light with red or blue cellophane.

It’s almost worth booking your trip to White Oak Lodge and Resort now just to see this amazing phenomenon next year.

Have you seen spectacular fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains? Tell us about your experience.

Victoria Hoffman

A native of New Jersey, Victoria isn't entirely sure how she ended up in Kansas City, but has enjoyed writing, editing, creating, communicating and marketing for high-profile accounts throughout the city ever since. In her spare time, Victoria is an actor (and active) with local community and city theatre.