The wildest show: Synchronous fireflies display untamed beauty in the Smokies

I entered the lottery on a whim, figuring that, like 90 percent of my fellow entrants, I’d end up with nothing but a polite “thank you for entering” and an invitation to try again next year. I was stunned, frankly, to receive an email that instead began with the word “congratulations” and an invitation to start dreaming about a front-row seat to one of the region’s most spectacular natural phenomena. 

That would be the flashing of the synchronous fireflies, Photinus carolinus. 

Synchronous fireflies draw thousands to the Smokies

coverIt’s a little after 7 p.m. when the first trolley shows up to Elkmont Campground. Green, red and yellow, the flashy Gatlinburg transit vehicle seems a bit out of place in the backwoods greenery of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but so, too, do the crowds of people that pour out of it.  

People bearing fold-up chairs, blankets and cameras. People with North Face and Patagonia strapped to their backs, and people toting oversized purses and tote bags. Children, teenagers, parents, retirees. People who are always in and out of the National Parks, and people who have probably never set foot in one in their lives.

Things that go blink in the night

By Michael Beadle

As springtime visitors flock to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see the phenomenon of synchronous fireflies, researchers are hoping to learn more about how and why these beetles produce such amazing light shows.

It may well be the most beautiful mating ritual on the planet.

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