World News

Fireflies Might Face Extinction

Have you ever seen a firefly? Those little points of light that fly around at night, dancing around the darkness? These little insects were once a source of light for various people before artificial light lit up the world. Now, they are facing extinction.

In new research published by Sara Lewis on February 3, professor of biology at Tufts University, it has been discovered that around 2,000 species of fireflies are at risk of going extinct due to three main reasons: habitat loss, light pollution, and pesticides.

No Place to Live

Habitat loss is one of the greatest causes for many species, not only fireflies, to be endangered and in the risk of extinction. In her research, Lewis states that certain conditions in the environment are essential for certain firefly species to finish their life cycle. For instance, the Malaysian firefly (Pteroptyx tener), needs mangroves to breed. However, Malaysia is losing these mangrove swamps as they are being turned into aquaculture farms and palm oil plantations. 

Light Pollution

In her report, Lewis says that light pollution is the 2nd most threatening reason for fireflies facing extinction. Over the last century, artificial light has grown exponentially. On one hand, a study conducted in 2017 suggests that light pollution increases by 2% worldwide each year. Regarding this issue, Avalons Owens, co-author of the research, states, “In addition to disrupting natural biorhythms — including our own — light pollution really messes up firefly mating rituals.” While fireflies rely on bioluminescence to attract mates, artificial lights interfere with this, thus disturbing their reproduction process. 

Fireflies flying in the night.

Firefly Tourism

On the other hand, firefly tourism is another big reason that puts fireflies at risk of extinction. This industry attracts more than 200,000 tourists each year to countries like Japan, Taiwan, México, and Malaysia to participate in tours of watching the firefly’s annual mating ritual spectacles at night. Human interference in this event causes many fireflies to get trampled and killed. 

Consequently, to prevent this precious species from going extinct, environmental activists and organizations have brought the issue to attention. Recently, a report on the topic was released, and Sonny Wong, co-author of the report and member of the Malaysian Nature Society, states, “Our goal is to make this knowledge available for land managers, policymakers, and firefly fans everywhere. We want to keep fireflies lighting up our nights for a long, long time.”

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