Fireflies also commonly known as lightning bugs can be found elsewhere and the Great Smoky Mountains national park has 14 species that have been identified within the park but only the species called Photinus Carolinus attract their mates with flashing lights within their bodies in a synchronous pattern.
The light given off buy the fireflies is actually a chemical reaction between chemicals within the fireflies, oxygen and an enzyme produced by the beetle. This light also known as bioluminescence is light green for most fireflies and one is bluish.
The exact timing of when it is best to observe the synchronous firefly beetles depends on weather and other condition and although the lightning bugs can take up to 2 years to mature, the light show taking place in their mating season only last around 21 days. The best guess is that this year next week will be the best week to observe the phenomena.
When watching the light show you will notice that to fireflies don't always flash in unison. You may observe different light patterns that they will make such as all the lightning bugs flashing randomly, then in waves across the hillside and then they will all flash together and all stop leaving some momentary periods of darkness.
Visitors to the fireflies should have bug spray and if you are bringing a flashlight it should have a red setting or you bring along red or blue cellophane to cover the light so as not to interfere with the fireflies and other observers night vision. Lights should be pointed to the ground and turned out in the observation areas.
Since this has become an extremely popular attraction with visitors to the park and Elkmont has limited parking, a shuttle service is in place from June 7th to the June 14th at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg. Riders who take the shuttle to Elkmont pay only $1 for a round trip ticket.
Due to crowding in Elkmont and the potential for pedestrians being hit while walking back to their cars in the dark along Little River Road, no parking is allowed in Elkmont or along the road sides so if you wish to see the fireflies, you must take the shuttle from The Sugarlands Visitor Center.
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