The story below is an excerpt from our Jan./Feb. 2015 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
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You wouldn’t think waiting in the woods of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park would have anything akin to a rock concert. But consider the spring rush to see the magical synchronized light show by fireflies each spring at Elkmont, Tennessee.
Once the park announces shuttle reservations are available in April, you better act quickly. “They fill up within a matter of about 10 minutes,” says Dana Soehn, park spokeswoman. “It’s like trying to get a ticket to your favorite rock concert.”
These insects do not light up just for you; what they’re doing is pitching woo.
“What makes them really special is they only emerge and have this mating behavior for about a two-week period,” Soehn says. “And, when they emerge, the males will start to synchronize their flashing behavior. By the peak of that mating season, they will be flashing in synchronicity. And the females are staying down lower, like in the leaf litter on the ground layer.”
The girls watch the boys: The male fireflies flash four to six times. Then the sky will go black – for about six seconds.