Synchronous Fireflies in the Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to dozens of species of animals and insects. In fact, there are at least 19 species of fireflies in the park alone. Photinus carolinus (synchronous fireflies) is one of those, and it is the only species in America that can sychronize flashing light patterns between individuals. As a part of their mating display over two weeks, typically peaking from late May to early June, the synchronous fireflies flash to make a beautiful display. The female fireflies typically stay in place, while the male fireflies move and flash to impress. The cause for the synchronicity is unknown, and the fireflies don’t always flash at the same time. The flashes may come in waves, occur in short bursts, or happen randomly at times. The timing of the display cannot be completely predicted, as factors such as temperature, soil, and moonlight may have an affect on the mating rituals.

Firefly Etiquette

  • ·Cover flashlights with red or blue cellophane.
  • ·Point flashlights toward the ground at all times, and turn them off when you find your viewing area.
  • ·Never catch the fireflies.
  • ·Stay on marked trails at all times.
  • ·Leave no trace – take your garbage with you.

What you should know

  • ·Shuttles from Sugarlands Visitor Center to Elkmont will run June 6th – 13th.
  • ·Advance reservations must be made for parking passes for everyone wishing to see the fireflies.
  • ·Access to Elkmont is restricted after 5 pm in late May and early June to registered campers and those riding the special trolley from Sugarlands Visitor Center.

The Synchronous Fireflies Display is a fun, unique, beautiful, and family friendly activity in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is something that can only be found one other place in the world, so it is truly a “bucket list” activity. Anyone who has experienced will say that it is a really magical experience. Go to for information about parking passes for the event.

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