In 2009, Owl City sang "you would not believe your eyes, if ten million fireflies, lit up the world as I fell asleep" in one of the best pop songs ever, according to me. Now, you can actually witness swarms of fireflies beautifully lighting up the night sky all at once, albeit there will probably only be a couple thousand. If you can score a ticket for this unique and super popular event—so popular there's a lottery for it—you better not fall asleep!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which borders North Carolina and Tennessee, is gearing up for its annual synchronous firefly event. During this eight-day event, which typically takes place in late May or early June, countless fireflies will travel through the night sky, delivering a performance as their abdomens glow and flash together. It's quite the phenomenon—as you can see from the photos below—not to mention extremely rare.
Known for their unique ability to flash their lights in unison, synchronous fireflies are only found in a handful of places throughout the world, according to Firefly.com. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to 19 different firefly species, including Photinus carolinus, the only synchronous firefly species that exists in the United States, according to the park’s website.
These synchronized light patterns are actually a part of the firefly mating ritual and help the males and females identify each other: Males will fly and flash their light and females will respond with a flash. The event takes place during their two-week mating season, which starts off slowly as a few insects start flashing at one another, and rapidly grow as more and more lightning bugs start to gleam, eventually creating a light show in the sky for park visitors to watch while laying on the hood of their cars. The dates of the mating period change from year to year, but for the last 27 years, they have fallen between the third week of May and the third week of June.
There is no date set in stone for the eight-day festival yet, as the park is still predicting the optimal mating time, but keep a look out for the lottery, where you can win a spot for your vehicle. The lottery will open on Friday, April 24 at 8 am and close on Tuesday, April 28 at 8 pm—don 't worry, the event will have its dates set in stone by then. Applicants will be notified in May if they have won or not and will be subject to a $24 fee to attend. You can learn more here.
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