NEWS OF A QUIET APOCALYPSE

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Riley Austin, Staff Writer

Memories of chasing lightning bugs around your yard and capturing them is a cherished memory especially in the midwest. This childhood tradition will become scarce if we follow our current trend. Lightning bugs, also known as fireflies, around the world face a possible extinction.  Many have called this decline a “quiet apocalypse”. Use of artificial light, habitat loss, and pesticides all contribute to the steadily declining population of the fireflies. The different factors that are contributing to the decline in fireflies are affecting the species in different ways.

Habitat loss is the main cause of the possible extinction. The different classifications of fireflies strive in different environments with the most popular being forests, fields, and arid areas. Lightning bugs, along with many other animals, are facing extreme habitat loss. Habitat loss is extremely dangerous for these insects as many of these different classifications require very specific conditions. 

Another lesser known factor of the decreased population is what some call “firefly tourism.” Firefly tourism occurs in places like Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia. In these areas, a recreational activity that has been there for a long time is watching light displays of fireflies. This activity has become increasingly popular and more widespread. With the larger numbers of visitors coming to these areas, they destroy the habitat. The visitors contribute to the habitat loss with the motorboat traffic, and eroding river banks. These visitors also unintentionally endanger these fireflies by trampling the flightless species.

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Light pollution is another large factor of this decline in fireflies. Light pollution is the brightening of the sky due to artificial light, which has distributive effects on the natural cycles. This light pollution can affect every aspect of most insects lives. One aspect that messes up lightning bugs confuse artificial human lightning with possible mates. The most known example of this is when a moth is flying around a street light. 

Sky glow is part of the artificial light usage. The term skyglow refers to a wide spread area of lumiance that is not caused by discrete light sources. This means that it is not caused by natural lighting such as the moon. This skyglow affects the natural biorhythms of many species. A PhD candidate in biology, Avalon Owens, stated that, “In addition to disrupting natural biorhythms — including our own — light pollution really messes up firefly mating rituals”. This means that this skyglow can affect their entire life

Lightning bugs are actually beetles and there are over two hundred different classifications. The fireflies lighting up are caused by chemical reactions inside their bodies to find and attract mates. Hoosiers see roughly about forty species of lightning bugs in Indiana. People are now progressively learning about this so-called “quiet apocalypse” and are becoming worried. They are worried for the future of things that are in some of their favorite childhood memories. Scientists are trying to find a way to end this decline considering that it is not just the fireflies. More than forty-one percent of bug species are facing extinction. This possible extinction is caused by very similar factors as fireflies. Sonny Wong of the Malaysian Nature Society says it best when stating, “We want to keep our fireflies lighting up our nights for a long, long time”.