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Natural Highlights: Cypress Firefly

Firefly species - which total 125+ in the U.S. alone - can be distinguished by their unique flash patterns, but it takes a trained eye and a willingness to be out in the field at night to identify them.  This helps to explain why the Cypress Firefly (Photuris walldoxeyi) remained undescribed until 2017, when biologist Lynn Frierson Faust first documented it at Wall Doxey State Park in Mississippi.  Since then, the Cypress Firefly has been documented at other locations in Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois and west Tennessee, including the Mineral Slough boardwalk in Ghost River State Natural Area.

The Cypress Firefly is aptly named for its preference for swamp habitat, where it flashes over the water in search of a mate. It's flash pattern is unique and beautiful, a "flash-train" of 4-9 quick flashes followed by a prolonged glow lasting about 1 second.  It is active from May to mid-June, thus coinciding with our annual Frog Chorus Walk at Mineral Slough, led by Cathy Justis. She noticed the unique flash pattern from the boardwalk in 2018 but didn't understand its significance until Lynn Faust, who was looking for other likely locations for the Cypress Firefly, reached out with a description which matched what Cathy has seen.  Lynn visited Mineral Slough herself to confirm the Cypress Firefly's presence there.

Like all fireflies, the Cypress Firefly is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, and by light pollution.  Fortunately, the Wolf River Conservancy works to protect the bottomland hardwood swamps and high quality habitat this species needs, and we hope the Cypress Firefly continues to flash near the Mineral Slough boardwalk for the foreseeable future.  As for light pollution, there are ways to address it.  You can learn more about it at our upcoming webinar on June 16th.

More information on the Cypress Firefly is available at this link:  https://www.xerces.org/endangered-species/species-profiles/at-risk-beetles/cypress-firefly

Posted by Cathy Justis at 3:04 PM