Human activity threatens to make summer nights a little less magical.
Habitat Loss<p>"Lots of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/wildlife" target="_self">wildlife</a> species are declining because their habitat is shrinking," Lewis said in a <a href="https://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/lights-out-fireflies-face-extinction-threats-habitat-loss-light-pollution-pesticides" target="_blank">Tufts press release</a>, "so it wasn't a huge surprise that habitat loss was considered the biggest threat."</p><p>However, some firefly species are particularly vulnerable because they require very specific conditions. The Malaysian firefly <em>Pteroptyx tener</em>, famous for its synchronized light shows, needs mangroves to flourish. Previous research had noted the species' decline due to the clearing of mangroves to plant <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/palm-oil">palm oil</a> plantations and aquaculture farms.</p>
Light Pollution<p><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/light-pollution" rel="noopener noreferrer">Artificial light</a> is a major problem for fireflies because they use their famous bioluminescence to find mates, and bright human lights can disrupt these courtship signals.</p><p>"In addition to disrupting natural biorhythms – including our own – light pollution really messes up firefly mating rituals," study coauthor and Tufts PhD candidate Avalon Owens explained in the press release.</p>
Pesticides<p>The use of agricultural pesticides like organophosphates and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/neonicotinoids" rel="noopener noreferrer">neonicotinoids</a> threatens fireflies, especially during their larval stages, when they spend as many as two years living below the ground or underwater. This makes them especially sensitive to pesticides that end up on lawns or in the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/soil" rel="noopener noreferrer">soil</a>, according to Popular Science.</p><p>While more specific research is needed on the impact of these chemicals on fireflies, the evidence suggests that they are harmful to the glowing bugs as they are to other insects, the Tufts release explained.</p>
'Insect Apocalypse'<p>Indeed, the plight of fireflies is reflected across the insect class. A <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/insect-apocalypse-will-have-dire-con-sequences-for-all-life-on-earth-report-warns-2641341433.html" target="_self">November 2019</a> study warned that 41 percent of insects are threatened with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/species-extinction" rel="noopener noreferrer">extinction</a>, which could lead to an "insect apocalypse" with serious consequences for humans and other life on Earth.</p><p>Dave Goulson, the University of Sussex biology professor who authored that study, <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2020/02/03/world/fireflies-extinction-risk-scn/index.html" target="_blank">told CNN</a> that the threats of habitat loss and pesticide use were also the leading causes of the overall insect decline.</p><p>"Of course fireflies are particularly vulnerable to light pollution, more so than perhaps any other insect group, so it makes sense that this also emerges as a major concern," Goulson said.</p><p>Lewis expressed hope that focusing the spotlight on fireflies could raise awareness about the plight of insects generally and build the will to save them.</p><p>"Fireflies are actually an insect that everybody can get behind," she told Popular Science.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Julia Conley
In addition to devastating effects on bee populations and the pollination needed to feed humans and other species, widely-used pesticides chemically related to nicotine may be deadly to birds and linked to some species' declines, according to a new study.
U.S. Beekeepers File Suit Against Trump EPA Charging 'Illegal' Approval of Insecticide Linked to Mass Die-Off
By Jon Queally
A group of beekeepers joined forces on Friday against Trump's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by filing a lawsuit over the agency's move to put a powerful insecticide — one that scientists warn is part of the massive pollinator die-off across the U.S. — back on the market.
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By Jake Johnson
The rapid and dangerous decline of the insect population in the United States — often called an "insect apocalypse" by scientists — has largely been driven by an increase in the toxicity of U.S. agriculture caused by the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS One.
By Jennifer Sass
Yet again, our government scientists—the oft neglected but so important brain trust of our nation—bring the public some very important new data. Pesticide water monitoring experts at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) paired up with scientists from the University of Iowa in a federally funded collaboration to track neonicotinoid pesticides or " neonics" in tap water, including the potential to form chlorinated disinfection byproducts (DBPs) from the pesticides and their metabolites that may be more toxic than the original compounds. And the news isn't good.
The yearly count of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico, released Wednesday, shows an increase of 144 percent from last year's count and is the highest count since 2006. That's good news for a species whose numbers had fallen in recent years, but conservationists say the monarch continues to need Endangered Species Act protection.
The count of 6.05 hectares of occupied forest is up from 2.48 hectares last winter. The increase is attributable to favorable weather during the spring and summer breeding seasons and during the fall migration. Monarchs have lost an estimated 165 million acres of breeding habitat in the U.S. to herbicide spraying and development.
Honeybees get a lot of attention for their worrisome decline, but many species of bumblebees—which are key pollinators—are also in trouble.
In Michigan, half of its bumblebee species have declined by 50 percent or more, Michigan Radio reported.
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By Daniel Raichel
As massive numbers of bees and other pollinators keep dying across the globe, study after study continues to connect these deaths to neonicotinoid pesticides (A.K.A. "neonics"). With the science piling up, and other countries starting to take critical pollinator-saving action, here's a quick primer on all things neonics:
The Center for Biological Diversity Thursday urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to deny Bayer CropScience's request to allow the highly bee-toxic pesticide flupyradifurone to be sprayed on tobacco in states like Kentucky and North Carolina.
On World Animal Day, we celebrate all the furry, scaly, winged and finned creatures that inhabit our planet.
On this international day of action, participants aim to "raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe," according to organizers at the UK-based charity Naturewatch Foundation. The occasion was first celebrated in 1925 and is observed annually on Oct. 4.