Springtime in the Great Smokies means synchronous firefly extravaganza is coming soon

Synchronous fireflies – the hottest ticket outside the flashing lights of Broadway – are about to get the party started.

The chance to see Photinus carolinus, a firefly species whose males display synchronous flashes to attract mates, is so hotly anticipated and so rare, that the National Park Service had to limit the hordes of humans and now holds a lottery for tickets to the show.

The lottery for vehicle passes will open at 9 a.m. April 26, 2019 and close at 8 p.m. April 29, said park spokeswoman Dana Soehn.

But exactly when the flashy bugs will strut their stuff is still a mystery, and one that park entomologist Becky Nichols has been hard at work to predict. The tiny insects usually light up the night for about two weeks in late May or early June in the Elkmont area of the Smokies.

Since 2013, Nichols said, the park has been using scientific data collection and analysis to predict the synchronicity.

Starting March 1, Nichols sets out two tiny devices in Elkmont called “ibuttons,” also known as temperature loggers. About the size of a watch battery, they log the temperature hourly. “Once we have the high and low temperatures up to the day before I have to make a prediction (April 22), I plug it into a formula called a degree day model,” Nichols said.

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