There are many unique species of animals that call the Smokies home, but the synchronous fireflies might be the most unique of all.
Synchronous fireflies are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns.
The Elkmont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is world renowned for being home to the magnificent display of this unique species of firefly. Anywhere from late May to early June these fireflies can be seen nightly lighting up the dark hollows of the mountains.
The synchronous firefly (Photinus carolinus, or “lightning bug”) is very similar to other species of fireflies that you might be familiar with across the world. It’s a small flying beetle with a section of its abdomen that serves as a bioluminescent “lantern”. The difference between these fireflies and others is the synchronous pattern of lighting that they display during their mating period. The synchronization can be hard to describe to someone who hasn’t seen it. The fireflies will flash multiple times for a few moments and then almost completely cease flashing for 6 to 8 seconds, leaving the surrounding area almost pitch black. After a brief ceasing, the fireflies will again flash multiple times until the next break.
The mating season for the synchronous fireflies takes place over a two week timeframe each year. The peak date occurs at various times each year, between the third week of May and the third week of June. This unique display typically starts around 9:30 PM and continues through the night.
Each year, starting at the end of April, parking passes to Sugarlands Visitor Center are sold online for the peak week of the firefly display. These tickets sell out almost instantly so if you plan on attending next year make sure and obtain all the information you will need. View additional information for this year’s event.