Firefly Sanctuary at peak season photographed by Rob Petersen

Peak firefly viewing season is quickly approaching. From late June through early July, thousands of fireflies twinkle in the dark at the New Canaan Land Trust’s Firefly Preserve. This extraordinary show results from years of caring for their natural habitat, especially due to the absence of artificial light.

Bright night lights interfere with firefly courtship. Their illumination is all about finding desirable mates. The males flash from the treetops signaling to the females who hover near the ground below. When a female likes what she sees, she responds with her own flash inviting a particular male to come hither.

Dark skies are also key to the survival of many other species that are active during the nighttime hours. Consider that porch lights left on all night often spell death to pollinating moths and other night-flying insects who are drawn to the hot white lights. Landscape lighting interferes with our little brown bats’ ability to use their eco-location for hunting mosquitoes and other pesky bugs. The light emanating from urban and suburban buildings confuses migrating birds who orient their long-distance flight paths by the stars.

Open space preserves and wild lands protect these nocturnal species with a cover of darkness. Unfortunately, they are islands in an ocean of man-made light. Enter the Dark Skies Movement. What began as a groundswell among star-gazing aficionados has become a goal of naturalists all over the world. It is mostly a voluntary movement with city officials, building managers, schools, churches, and individual homeowners agreeing to dim the lights between midnight and dawn. Connecticut legislators are considering passing Lights Out CT, a bill that promotes turning off public building lights during the peak spring and fall bird migrations (Apr 1- May 31 and Sept 1- Nov 15).

Curbing light pollution also reduces energy use and costs. It is a win-win for the planet!

Here are a few simple solutions to follow at home:

1. Turn off excessive lighting that causes the sky to glow all night
2. If security is an issue switch to motion sensor lights instead of continuous spotlights
3. Replace bright white porch lights with yellow bulbs which are not as attractive to insects
4. Direct outdoor lighting toward the ground instead of illuminating the sky.

Communities working together can create dark sky corridors throughout our region and beyond. Let’s turn out the lights, enjoy the stars, and the magic of fireflies, and help our nighttime flyers whose survival depends on the cover of darkness.