Scholastic News Online

Scholastic News Online is a free resource with breaking news and highlights from the print magazine.

Available for grades 1-6, Scholastic News magazine brings high-interest current events and nonfiction to millions of classrooms each week.

Additionally, our subscribers have FREE access to Scholastic News Interactive, an exclusive online learning tool featuring digital editions, videos, interactive features, differentiated articles, and much more.

Photo of a firefly Photo of a firefly. (Darwin Dale/Photo Researchers, Inc.)

Fading Fireflies?

Experts fear there are now fewer glowing bugs—but you may be able to help

By Laura Leigh Davidson | null null , null

Fireflies. Lightning bugs. Glow worms. These are all names for the tiny flying insects that light up lawns from Asia to the United States. For as long as anyone can remember, kids around the world have spent warm summer evenings catching and admiring fireflies.

But your backyard may not be flickering as brightly as it used to. Scientists believe the firefly population is decreasing. But they aren't sure why.

"There's not a lot known about fireflies," Don Salvatore, a science educator at the Boston Museum of Science told The Washington Post recently. He said that scientists need to track the insects over several years to understand what is affecting them.

Salvatore and scientists from Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts, are asking volunteers to help. They have organized a citizen-science project called Firefly Watch. In a citizen-science project, volunteers team up with professional researchers to answer questions about real-world science.

The project is simple. Researchers are asking people to count the fireflies that they see in a given time period. Firefly-watchers can count in their backyards or in a nearby field. Then they send their findings to scientists through the Firefly Watch Web site once a week. Experts will use the information collected to track firefly population and health.

Why Is Firefly Flicker Fading?

Scientists believe that firefly numbers are falling because the bugs are sensitive to changes in their environment. Fireflies like to live in open fields near water. Many of those areas have been taken over by buildings and parking lots.

Researchers also think that lots of artificial light from street lamps and houses could be driving fireflies away. The information that Firefly Watch gathers will help experts find out for sure what is causing the apparent drop in the population.

You Can Be a Citizen-Scientist!

People who work at the National Children's Museum in Maryland thought kids would love to participate in Firefly Watch. So they created a Web site just for kids called The site explains how to join Firefly Watch. It is also packed with firefly facts and games.

Scholastic Kid Reporter Caitlin Wardlow is participating in the firefly count. "It was cool to sit outside and watch the fireflies light up the night," said the 10-year-old from Connecticut. "[On my first try], I counted 20 fireflies in 10 seconds."

To get started, you have to register online (with an adult) on the Firefly Watch Web site. Then you'll need to answer basic questions about where you will be observing fireflies.

Caitlin has already discovered new things about these insects of summer. "I learned that fireflies are actually a type of beetle," she reported. "I also found out that I am no longer grossed out by them!"

Fireflies continue to glow in many places through mid-September. So you still have time to get outside and watch the firefly action!


blog it

Be Chart Smart! Read today's story and use what you learn in this activity.

Download it here!


Get the latest on national and international events, movies, television, music, sports, and more from Scholastic News Online.

Privacy Policy




Here's something interesting from