Prairie View

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Last night I sat in a chair on the patio after dark to watch the fireflies flitting over the backyard.  A very rough count suggested that there may have been at least a dozen different winking insects present.  The first thing I thought of is how few fireflies I remember seeing in my childhood.  I have a few theories about why that might have been the case, but I don't know for sure.

The first theory has to do with the setting of the house I grew up in.  It wasn't very sheltered from the southwest wind, which was often pervasive in the summertime.  I don't think fireflies frequent windy sites.  Our backyard is more sheltered than was the case in my childhood home, and I think the winds are less--well, less prevailing.  It's a little hard to remember that, having just come through a week of very windy weather, but the past few days have been calm, and the windy stretches are more notable now than they were earlier--because they're less frequent--my theory, of course.

Another theory has to do with the fact that we did not have an irrigated lawn during most of my childhood.  In Kansas, not irrigating means the grass doesn't grow (especially so during drought years).  I usually see fireflies over vegetation-covered areas.  Our backyard is not a showcase, but it does have irrigated Fescue grass.

The third reason has to do with climate change.  I'm not talking about large-scale climate change (did that keep a few of you from clicking away from this post?), but about what I believe has happened right here in our county.  I think the air is often far more humid than it was earlier.  I attribute it to  lots of groundwater being pumped to the surface in order to raise more thirsty crops (corn and soybeans) than used to happen earlier.  These crops transpire and breathe more moisture into the air as they do so.  I thought it might just have been my imagination when I observed that the prevailing wind now more often seems to be from the southeast rather than the southwest.  Then I heard  my brother Myron say the same thing, and I feel more sure that I wasn't imagining it.  I think fireflies like higher humidity, like we have now.

I associate fireflies with wheat harvest.  The field that surrounds our three-acre property is still uncut.  I love this backdrop to the green barberry bushes at the edge of the backyard.  It spreads a lovely carpet under the expansive, often-drama-filled sky above it.  The tall dense golden growth also provides some ground-level wind protection for the little "island"  that is our homestead.  It's the only part of this 640-acre section (one square mile) that is not being field-cropped.  Firefly season and wheat harvest are probably events that often occur at nearly the same time, but have no direct connection.  It's phenology, but not cause-and-effect, with wheat or fireflies as cause or effect.

The first time I remember seeing many fireflies was the summer I lived in Hartville, Ohio for three weeks while I studied at a summer teacher's institute.  Sitting outside in the warm wet dark was mesmerizing.  I needed that time to refocus (or escape) for a variety of reasons, but that's another story.

When our boys were children, Hiromi taught our whole family a Japanese children's song about fireflies.  It begins with Ho Ho Taru Koi.  He says it's a child's invitation to the fireflies to "come over here where the water is sweet."  This  probably has reinforced my idea that fireflies and moisture go together.

Fireflies and children go together too--as do fireflies and nature-loving 65-year-old Amish Mennonite ladies.  I can vouch for that.


  • You need to come see the two unique fireflies found in our region. The synchronized fireflies and the blue ghost fireflies.

    By Blogger Dorcas Byler, at 6/21/2017  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home