Fireflies are abundant in Colorado. Hot summer nights are lit up with the twinkling glow of these lightning bugs.
Difference Between Fireflies and Lightning Bugs
Fireflies and Lightning Bugs are actually the same insect. Both are a type of beetles that eat snails, slugs and insect larvae. The reason for the variety of names has to do with geographical colloquialisms. On the West Coast and in New England go with the firefly moniker. The South and most of the Midwest uses lightning bug.
Lightning Bugs Coming Back to Colorado
A Colorado State university graduate has been researching a single type of lightning bug that he believes are native to Colorado and returning in droves. Lightning bugs aren’t common in Colorado but due to climate change and wetter summers, fireflies are here. These aren't just ordinary lightning bugs, they are some of the brightest and biggest. Originally it was thought these bugs came from the east but new science has led to the knowledge that these might be a new species.
Why Do Lightning Bugs Glow?
Whitney Cranshaw, a Colorado State University entomologist said “The reason fireflies produce light is as a mating signal,” he said. “So it’s a specific kind of flash pattern – the male will produce one kind and the female will produce another. And it’s done with an amazing, complex chemical reaction that they produce in their body, mixing a couple compounds, adding a little bit of oxygen, a little ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and bingo, you get a flash.”
Where to See Lightning Bugs in Colorado
Fort Collins: The firefly population at Reservoir Ridge Natural Area off of Overland Trail in northwest Fort Collins is the largest population he has seen along Colorado's Front Range.
Moffat: At Valley View Hot Springs you can spot some.
Boulder: They are in the wetland North of the Pleasant View soccer fields.
Estes Park: In Rocky Mountain National Park they can be found around permanent water sources.
Durango: Along the Animas River about 10 miles south of Durango.