Utah is not known for its fireflies, but there is a dense population in Cache Valley’s city of Nibley. The Stokes Nature Center hosts tours of the area to provide education about the unique group of fireflies.
The colony of fireflies is located in a marshland on the outskirts of the Virgil Gibbons Heritage Park. The area was originally scheduled for further urban development. But those construction plans were canceled once the fireflies were discovered. The Nibley City Council later voted to build a 20-acre nature park in the area, called Firefly Park, in an attempt to preserve the insects’ habitat.
The Stokes Nature Center has since partnered with the city of Nibley to host annual firefly tours. The third annual firefly tour is this week.
The tours are held in June because it is the fireflies’ mating season where the insects perform their famous light display most intensely and the likelihood of seeing them is higher. The tours are guided by Stokes naturalist educators who teach participants about the insects.
Linda L’Ai, a Stokes volunteer naturalist educator, stresses the importance of protecting the habitat of the fireflies.
“If you have too much housing development, too much pollution and pesticides, it’s going to inhibit their lifecycle,” L'Ai said.
Jennifer Hamilton is the executive director of Stokes Nature Center and helped plan the first firefly tour in 2016, where more than 2,000 people came the first night and almost 10,000 showed interest in the Facebook event.
“It was just a magical night. You know all these people were so excited about fireflies," Hamilton said. "It was pretty incredible. And we were hearing that people were coming from St. George, people were coming from areas in Nevada, pulling people from Idaho, all over the state of Utah to come and see fireflies in Nibley."
Fireflies are native to Utah but they are rare. Research about Utah fireflies is being done by Brigham Young University entomologists and the university has partnered with the Natural History Museum of Utah to track firefly populations across the state. More information on this is available at the Natural History Museum of Utah's website.
“We aren’t the East coast so these fireflies are really special. They’re not going to look the same, they’re not going to be all over the place like they are in the East. They’re pretty concentrated in this one area of this park,” Hamilton said.
The Stokes Nature Center Firefly Tours cost $5 and children younger than the age of three are free. Tickets are available at logannature.org and the tours are 9:30 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. through Saturday.