Shine, tiny light, shine! June is the month when the fireflies swarm – to the delight of their fans, who travel far and wide to enjoy the spectacle.
LOVE LIGHTS IN PORTUGAL
For over 20 years, the Parque Biológico de Gaia, a small nature reserve south of Porto, has been opening at night in June to let visitors enjoy the spectacle of dancing lights. A guide explains how light pollution makes it harder for fireflies to find each other and mate.
FLASH MOB IN THE U.S.
2 000 applicants, 1800 access permits and one big puzzle: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina/Tennessee) holds an annual lottery to decide who may see the live show – lasting well into June – of the only firefly species in the U.S. to blink in sync. Why do they do this? Nobody knows.
MEXICAN FAIRY LIGHTS
From mid-June to mid-August each year, some 100 000 people visit Nanacamilpa village (1.5 hours east of Mexico City) to see the fireflies flit about in the woods. At about 3000 meters up, there’s no light to disrupt their flashy flirting. The nearby Hacienda Ixtafiayuca offers visitors a bed for the night.
TINDER FOR TINIES
Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are neither flies nor bugs but twinkling beetles. There are about 2000 species of them worldwide. They generate their own light (bioluminescence) at the rear end of their body to attract mating partners. In Central Europe, the high point of the season is around St. John’s Day, June 24, when from nightfall on, fireflies twinkle to beat the band at the edge of forests, over wetlands, in undergrowth and by rivers and lakes. In Germany, for example, botanic gardens offer illuminating guided tours.
FLYING WARRIORS IN JAPAN
According to Japanese legend, the souls of fearless Samurai who died in the 12th-century Gempei War turned into fireflies. Hence the firefly festivals hosted by hotels, theme parks and gardens from early June to mid-July. The Tatsuno Firefly Park in Nagano Prefecture is said to be especially enchanting.
You can see the ardent blinking among the coconut palms and mangroves: All year round, visitors to Donsol on Luzon island in the Philippines can take a firefly ecotour lasting up to three hours on the Donsol River and its sleepy tributary, the Ogod River – hotel transfer included.
GLOWWORM GROTTO IN NEW ZEALAND
In the Waitomo Caves south of Hamilton on North Island, the gnat larvae dangle sticky, blue-shimmering threads from the cave roof like fishing lines, to catch prey. That’s why you won’t get close to them on a boat tour of the Glowworm Caves, but it’s still a magical sight, even at a distance.