Right now one of the most exciting and mysterious displays in nature is about to peak in the Great Smoky Mountain national park straddling North Carolina and Tennessee, the synchronized flashing of the most famous species of fireflies in the Smokies and Southern Appalachian Mountains - Photinus carolinus.
The Synchronized lightning bugs are actually beetles and have been found by scientists in every single area of the Great Smoky Mountain national park that was examined. The key to finding them is that they initially emerge from under the forest floor when the ground temperature reaches around 55 degrees in spring and since the park greatly ranges in elevation, overhead canopy and exposure to sunlight, some areas may see the coveted fireflies emerge weeks or even a month later than other places.
Right now even though the firefly tours have not officially started they can be found most easily in great numbers along the Little River Hiking Trail in the Elkmont Tennessee area of the Great Smoky Mountains national park and anyone can see them without a parking pass or a hard to get ticket by lottery.
They are also active right now in Tremont, Greenbrier (not open to visitors after sunset), Cosby and Abrams Creek, and the Roaring Fork Area. Activity is also increasing in the back end of Cades Cove this weekend which is a long walk from the Loop Road Entrance but well worth it.
Starting Tuesday, May 31st and running through Tuesday, June 7th, Elkmont will be closed in the afternoon to all cars and vehicles other than those with valid camping reservations so that the firefly shuttles which run from the Sugarlands Visitor center have a place to unload and reload people lucky enough to have shuttle passes they won in the new firefly lottery.
You can learn more than you ever need to know about the Synchronized Fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains by visiting this Firefly Information Page.