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Firefly (photo by Bruce Marlin, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Arlington Firefly Festival is returning to Fort C.F. Smith Park next month.

On Sunday, June 19, the festival celebrating insects that light up summer nights is back for the first time since 2019. Last year, a smaller firefly “prowl” (essentially, a nature walk) was held due to the pandemic.

This year there will be firefly arts and crafts, bug bingo, storytelling, a nature walk, and flashlight games. All are encouraged to go on a firefly hunt, catching and releasing the twinkling bugs.

Naturalists will also be on hand to explain how to best attract fireflies and ways to maintain backyard habitats to encourage insect visitors.

“Fireflies are fascinating and inspire a sense of nostalgia for many adults,” saud the press release. “The festival is an opportunity to introduce the next generation of citizens to the wonders of the night sky and the value of natural spaces.”

The event is sponsored by the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation. Registration began last week.

In general, fireflies are not lighting up the night sky as they used to.

“There are fewer, like a lot of insects,” says Rita Peralta, Outreach Manager at the Long Branch Nature Center and in charge of putting on the festival. “It’s largely referred to as an insect apocalypse. Like a lot of animals, it’s due to, mostly, habitat loss.”

But on warm Arlington summer nights, fireflies can be found across the county. The best place to see their nightly light show is near undistributed mature trees, in areas that have little light pollution.

That’s why Fort C.F. Smith Park in the Woodmont neighborhood is a great spot for the festival, says Peralta, because of its tree canopy and open meadows.

There are about 2,000 different firefly species in the world, with anywhere from 24 to 36 species calling our region home. Their ability to light up is part of their mating process, but one local species uses the light as a way to attract a meal.

“One local firefly species — the Femme Fatale or Photuris genus — is predatory,” noted the release. “The female will send a false signal to a male of another species to attract him and will then eat him when he arrives to mate.”

The festival starts at 7:30 p.m. and runs for two hours. Admission is $7 and tickets can also be purchased at the event, in addition to online. Heavy rains will cancel the event and there’s no rain date.

As of today, more than 100 people have already registered online, according to the county’s website.

Photo by Bruce Marlin via Wikimedia Commons

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