The amazing night lives of lightning bugs and Dismalites
Ok, so there are some pretty cool things right here in our own backyard.
Things that people travel great distances to see, such as synchronous fireflies and Dismalites.
You may already be quite familiar with lightning bugs, also known as fireflies. Fireflies signal the
arrival of summer, magically lighting up the darkness with their tiny tails, making warm southern
nights even sweeter and brighter. However, what you may not know is that there are 19 different
species of fireflies, each one with its own unique flash pattern. One species of firefly even has
the ability to synchronize its flashes. These special synchronous fireflies are found only in a few
places in the United States, one of which is in the nearby Smokey Mountains. Although fireflies
can be seen throughout the summer, May and June is the best time to see the synchronous
fireflies in action.
Another light emitting insect is a Dismalite. Dismalites are the larvae of a bug that glows with
bioluminescence at night, a “glowworm” of such. They emit a bright blue-green light to attract
other flying insects. Dismals Canyon Natural Conservatory (30 miles south of Muscle Shoals), is
an 85 acre, privately owned piece of paradise where these Dismalites can be found. Guided
twilight tours are offered for a fee of $10 for adults and $7.75 for kids under twelve. In order to
protect the fragile habitat of the Dismalites, the trail is not lit, so bring a “red light” flashlight. (A
red light makes it easier for your eyes to adjust to night vision.) Dismals Canyon is also a great
place to visit in the daytime. A short 3/4 mile trail along the floor of the canyon is an enchanted
wonderland of massive rocks, ferns, broad-leafed trees and the world’s largest Eastern Hemlock
So take it outside and discover the amazing world of nature that surrounds us.