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It's not too late to see fireflies in Utah

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Fireflies are actually, beetles. There are dozens and dozens of populations throughout Utah. The Museum of Natural History of Utah has partnered with scientists at BYU to track their populations, using the help of citizen scientists. The museum is also working with partners in other western states including Idaho, New Mexico, Wyoming and Nevada to track these flashy, charismatic insects across the west.

The museum’s entomologist Christy Bills, says the excitement of finding firefly populations brings people together.

“And when you are excited about fireflies you are excited about wetlands,” said Bill.

She explains why she thinks the museum’s Western Firefly Project: A Community Science Initiative, is important to not only scientists but to the public as well.

“I think wonder can save us. I think our love of things that seem magical and right now I’m looking at a bumble bee out my window. And I think it’s important because everybody loves fireflies. And I think that love can make us more thoughtful about land and water.”

Fireflies seem to coexist happily with human land use for food production, adds Bills.

“So we see them where there are cows, where we are irrigating for agriculture. When we set aside land for our food production, the fireflies are doing great. But where we put apartments and buildings and roads, they are not doing great. So, that is something for us to think about.”

Ranchers and people in rural areas mostly know about the fireflies, but Bills says because campers generally do not stay in wetlands and are in bed by dark, they don’t know they are there.

“I just need to turn them around 180 degrees and say look behind you and they are surprised.”

Adult fireflies are typically out from late May to early July.

“This year was odd and it started about 2-3 weeks late. What I do say always is that you can’t shop the wild…you just hope to see them.”

If you do see them, researchers would like to know about it, especially in certain areas.

“There’s a couple counties in Utah that are black hole mysteries like Carbon County, Tooele County, Juab County, Iron County, I would really like to know more about,” said Bills.

You can document your firefly sightings here at the Natural History Museum of Utah.

Sheri's career in radio began at 7 years old in Los Angeles, California with a secret little radio tucked under her bed that she'd fall asleep with, while listening to The Dr. Demento Radio Show. She went on to produce the first science radio show in Utah in 1999 and has been reporting local, national and international stories ever since. After a stint as news director at KZYX on northern California's Lost Coast, she landed back at UPR in 2021.