Wet summer produces bumper crop of fireflies in Ontario

The overly wet summer in southern Ontario has produced a bumper crop of fireflies.
A look at the increase of more fireflies in Windsor. 2:11

The overly wet summer in southern Ontario has produced a bumper crop of fireflies.

"Mild winters and wet springs are more conducive to higher firefly populations in the summer," University of Florida entomologist and firefly expert Marc A. Branham told CBC News in an email.

June in Windsor-Essex, for example, was one of the wettest on record for the region. More than 150 mm of rain fell in the region. Normal rainfall is 89 mm in June.

Medical Research

Millions of fireflies have been collected for scientific and medical research during the last 30 years. Firefly luciferin and luciferase, the fluid that glows, is used to detect bacterial contamination in food, cancer research and may even be used to test for life on Mars. Fortunately luciferin can now be obtained through recombinant DNA technology.

Source: Ojibway Nature Centre

Environment Canada says June was the wettest on record since 2008.

"I love fireflies. They’re one of the classic things about summer and this summer everybody's coming out and saying, ‘where are all these fireflies coming from?’" said Paul Pratt, head naturalist at the Ojibway Nature Centre in Windsor, Ont.

It’s a question Pratt has been answering a lot this summer. Residents in the area have been reporting an unusually high number of fireflies at dusk.

Windsor resident David Panton is one who has noticed an increase.

"I’ve always loved fireflies. I love the way two of them will find themselves together in the air then flop, flop, flop in the grass.

What they do down there I don't know, but I have a hunch," he said before laughing.

"It's been a wet summer but they also like tall grassy areas and with all the rain we've been having, vegetation is a lot higher thicker and more luxuriant this year. That's also contributing to great habitat for fireflies," Pratt said.

Fireflies are more than just a pretty sight. They're an important part of keeping balance in the environment, Pratt said.

He said fireflies are actually little predators. They feed on and control populations of other insects and snails.

Pratt said the more fireflies, the better.

Kids enamoured by the bright little bugs had better catch them while they can because their lights go out by August.

Rick Lieder of neighbouring Michigan is working on a project capturing "the role of fireflies in our memories of summer."

"No other animal has the kind of magic and nostalgia associated with fireflies across all ages," he wrote to CBC News.