Summer magic is literally currently in the air in the Smoky Mountains, as floating clouds of synchronous lightning bugs are in the midst of their seasonal showcase of unified bioluminescence.
While few sights in nature are more awe inspiring than the summer glow of sporadic lightning bug flashes stretched out into the night, even more magic is the synchronized flash of a forest full of synchronous fireflies.
Lightning bugs are scientifically classified as bioluminescent beetles. Their glow comes from an internal chemical reaction that combines oxygen and calcium with a series of enzymes. They flash for several reasons, to communicate, to attract mates, and to frighten predators.
According to The Mountaineer, the synchronous fireflies in the Smokies have a distinctive flash pattern. They quickly flash four to 11 yellow flashes at half-second intervals followed by six to nine seconds of darkness, all while flying horizontally 3-7 feet above the ground.
The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee are the epicenter for synchronous lightening bugs, but they can be seen all over the Appalachians from North Georgia to New York.
The phenomena lasts for approximately two weeks every year in early to mid June.
Male lightening bugs are far more common than females, and males are the ones that light up.
The Smokies are also home to another species of lightening bug known as the “blue ghost.” Their bluish-green flashes can often be seen in between the synchronous flashes of yellow light.
The synchronous fireflies have become a major seasonal tourist attraction in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.