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Blue Ghost Firefly
Phausis reticulata


It was a dark, warm, wet night. The lights had been off in the bedroom for awhile, long enough for our eyes to get acclimated. Suddenly my partner exclaims about something outside far off up in the mountain. There were some lights that were low, which could have been a few people walking town the road below with flashlights. But as we watched, suddenly the lights were up high in the tree tops, where there isn’t a road. At that point, we started to worry.

(There are more detailed videos out there, but I love this one because it really shows what it looked like to me when I first saw these. )

We got out of bed and got closer to the windows. We see more of these lights floating closer to the house. We’re both starting to freak out – my brain is thinking: is someone flying a drone in the middle of the night spying on us? Or is it something else that I don’t want to think about? My partner is thinking (also reluctantly) “is it aliens”? I start to think that too. It’s weird where your brain goes when you don’t have an explanation for something.

One of them gets near the window and we are totally wondering what on earth is happening. The Green Wizard in me starts to think: okay – what are the biological explanations that this could be…? I’m thinking about glowing plankton, and glowing worms, and then I was like, I mean, firefly? That was in the back of my head, but we were still running around the house very freaked out that there actually ARE aliens, and they ride in teeny tiny little glowing spaceships that can zip around pretty fast.

Eventually I suppose they stopped. I actually don’t remember how we got from running around the house, back to the bed. In any case, I started Googling “glowing fireflies long extended glow” or something like that. At that time (this was probably back in 2018) there wasn’t a lot on the internet about these, except one video, which I think is the video below, one article (that I found once I knew what these were called) and I think one brief scientific research paper.

As soon as I saw the video, I knew we had figured out what these were!

What makes these tiny fireflies so spooky, is that, unlike the fireflies most of us are used to, that flash on and off, the males bluish light stays on for a minute or so at a time. This makes it look like it’s floating. Some people say it looks like a ghost, some people say it looks like fairies, to me, I thought it was either an alien or a drone! I mean, I’m not saying there isn’t other life out there, but I’m not one who thinks UFOs are out here visiting me in the middle of the night.

Supposedly they are only in a few places in North Carolina or the Appalachia but they did show their light here in Virginia, at least one warm, wet, early June. From what I’ve read they like areas with Mountain Laurel, and forests that are mature and undisturbed, so that might be one reason why they hang out here.

All text and photos copyright © 2022 Middle Way Nature Reserve, unless noted.
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