Tips to Attract Lightning Bugs or Fireflies to Your Garden

lightning bugs in forest at dusk
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Tips to Attract Lightning Bugs or Fireflies to Your Garden

Invite Them to Your Garden - They are Fun and Helpful

Ah those lovely lightning bugs. Summer just isn’t complete without that familiar glow waltzing slowly through the balmy night air. It’s amazing how even years after we’re considered too old to chase them, our fingers still itch for an empty jar every time we spot a faint yellow blip hovering just out of reach.

Lightning bugs or Fireflies are great because they want nothing from us, yet they give us so much. They don’t sting, bite or steal our blood (Curse you, mosquitoes!) or feast on our plants. They don’t even fly very fast so children (and childlike adults) can catch them with ease.

Far from harmful, these little beetles actually help us out by eating some of a gardener’s biggest enemies: snails, grubs and slugs. Lightning bug larvae devour these slimy pests with gusto until they mature into the glimmering adults we know and love.

firefly / lightning bug on green leaffirefly / lightning bug on green leaf

Bring Back the Lightning Bugs

Sadly this bright and beneficial bug faces many challenges and the biggest ones are man made. Light pollution, pesticides and loss of habitat are all contributing factors to their dwindling numbers. But there is hope yet to bring these charming bugs back into your garden. Just follow these tips:

Go Organic

Being the overachievers we humans are, we’ve created some pretty powerful chemicals to combat pests. Unfortunately, many of them work too well and kill all of the good bugs along with the bad. Lightning bugs are susceptible to these poisons too, so if you use a lot of pesticides don’t expect to see many fireflies this summer. Since lightning beetles are natural predators of many common pests, you’re really just swapping a chemical pest-fighting solution with a much cleaner and greener one.

Bring in the Flowers!

While some lightning bugs eat nothing after they mature, lots of fireflies like pollen and nectar as much as bees. Simply do what you love doing already and plant some flowers to entice these beetles to stop for a while.

Give Them Shelter

Being nocturnal means that these beetles need a shady spot to hang out during the day. They love tall grasses, shrubs and bushy, low growing plants.

The Wetter, The Better

Streams, creeks, the edges of ponds and lakes are all places fireflies adore. If you have a little stream or pond in your yard you’re already halfway to having a lightning bug paradise.

Lights Out

Lightning bugs glow to locate their mates in the dark and man made lights are effectively confusing the poor things and ruining their courtship. In summer try turning off your flood lights and you’ll be surprised how many of these little bugs start popping up!

Finally, my last piece of advice may be the hardest to follow – don’t catch them in jars.

Even if you’re very careful and put holes in the lid and everything, no bug enjoys being trapped inside a container for any amount of time and the shock can kill them. You can catch one in your hand, but after you’ve admired its blinking bottom please let it lift its wings and fly off to find a mate so you can enjoy even more of these glowing beauties next year.