For many, spending an evening watching fireflies speckle the night sky with bursts of light is a beloved summer tradition. The beetles use light to communicate with one another, attract mates, and deter predators, and the result is magnificent.
The insects can be found on nearly every continent (sorry, Antarctica), and they don’t even sting or bite. Seeing them illuminate a dark sky is a spellbinding experience. If you want to witness the beetles light up the night, check out these spectacular firefly viewing destinations.
1. Congaree National Park // South Carolina, United States
Although there are over 2000 known firefly species across the globe, there are only a handful that are synchronous, meaning the males flash at the same time. Congaree National Park is home to the synchronous species Photuris frontalis. Every year, for about two weeks, the males put on an incredible, coordinated show of short, rhythmic flashes of light. Researchers believe they do this to attract a mate, as the competition for female fireflies is fierce. Congaree National Park hosts a firefly festival every year to allow visitors to see this uniform display.
2. Purushwadi // Maharashtra, India
While many firefly habitats contain anywhere between 10 to 20 species, this village lights up with magnificent firefly diversity—thousands of firefly species call the area home. The best time of year to witness the glowing gathering is typically in June, before the monsoon season really kicks off.
3. Great Smoky National Park // Tennessee, United States
Great Smoky National Park is home to some of the most astonishing fireflies—an impressive 19 species, at least. Although the type of synchronous firefly there (Photinus carolinus) is different from that in nearby Congaree National Park, they typically have a two-week display as well. Scientists believe males in this species coordinate their flashes to show females that they’re responding to a signal from their own kind. (Winding up with the wrong crowd could be fatal, as some firefly species prey upon other lightning bugs.) A lottery for the Great Smoky National Park’s synchronous firefly display enables a lucky group of people to see this spectacle every June.
4. Allegheny National Forest // Pennsylvania, United States
Visitors to Pennsylvania’s only national forest will find a woodland flickering with fireflies each summer, with a dedicated festival taking place each June. The region protects the largest contiguous bit of old growth forest left in the state. And it’s no wonder why such a large amount of fireflies resides here: This national forest is full of thick woodland and watersheds, which make a great home for more than 15 species, including Photuris pennsylvanica (the state insect) and the synchronous Photinus carolinus.
5. Santuario de las Luciérnagas // Tlaxcala, Mexico
The Santuario de las Luciernagas provides an eco-tourism opportunity that’s unlikely to be forgotten. Visitors to this sanctuary will be able to fully immerse themselves in Mexico’s natural world while viewing thousands of fireflies. This sanctuary is designed specifically to protect fireflies, ensuring that future generations will see them, too.
6. Marvin, Massarella, & Friends Firefly Sanctuary // Connecticut, United States
Insect enthusiasts don’t have to trek into the wilderness to view this spectacular site, a 6.5-acre sanctuary tucked within the suburbs of New York City. It’s thought to be the country’s first dedicated firefly preserve. Every summer, between late June and early July, the meadow and surrounding woods twinkle with the glow of thousands of lightning bugs.
7. Kampung Kuantan Fireflies Park // Selangor, Malaysia
The Kampung Kuantan Fireflies Park in Malaysia is home to one of the nation’s biggest colonies of lightning bugs. While there are a number of different places to go firefly watching in Malaysia, this is a must-see destination because visitors often take a boat ride through the park to see the insects from the Selangor River, where, close to the shore, it’s possible to witness a seemingly endless amount of dancing lights in the darkness.
8. Blue Spring State Park // Florida, United States
Blue Spring State Park is perhaps best known as a popular area for manatees during the winter. But when the temperatures start to pick up in early spring, it doesn’t take long for fireflies to emerge, transforming this area into a glimmering wonderland. While it’s possible to see fireflies in most parts of Florida, few places see as many of them as Blue Springs State Park. Most fireflies in this region are the Photinus pyralis species, and they illuminate the sky with little yellowish-green lights.
9. Kushiro Shitsugen National Park // Hokkaido, Japan
Because fireflies tend to be attracted to wetlands, there’s no better way to see them than from the water. Kushiro Shitsugen National Park features a wooden path that weaves through a marshy area, offering an intimate glimpse into the firefly habitat. For a chance to see these bioluminescent insects, visitors should head to the park in July and August.
10. Yangmingshan National Park // Taiwan
Those who are interested in hiring a guide to teach them about the regional fireflies will love Taiwan’s Yangmingshan National Park. It’s well known for its cherry blossoms and venomous snakes, but its lightning bugs are also not to be missed. Firefly exhibits and guides are available year-round; the best time to see the bioluminescent beetles is from March to May.