Fireflies (you might call them lightning bugs) are known for putting on one of summer’s best natural light shows, but usually their displays are more random and serene, and less orchestrated stage spectacular. That all changes with a little coaxing and a particular kind of self-illuminating insect.

In the video above, Robin Meier and Andre Gwerder captured an experiment they staged last year with synchronous fireflies in Thailand. In the country’s mangrove forests, they cajoled a sea of wild Pteroptyx malaccae to sync up with flashing, computer-controlled LED lights. Adjustments in the man-made (and operated) lights caused the light patterns produced by the fireflies to change as well—creating one breathtaking show. According to Meier’s website, “Synchronicity” was designed to be an exploration of free will and the interplay of a machine in the natural world.

You can see synchronous fireflies in person at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where, annually, the park holds events to showcase Photinus carolinus, the only synchronous firefly species in America.

[h/t @stevenstrogatz]

Banner image: iStock

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