Synchronized Fireflies in Elkmont

Apr 14, 2015

Synchronized Fireflies in Elkmont

Now that you have decided on a Gatlinburg Cabin Rental as your lodging this summer, you need to concern your self with COOL Things to do in Gatlinburg. Yes there  are rides and restaurants attractions and adventures around each corner of town. BUT if you are looking for a MUST DO adventure with the family,get ready for Mother Nature’s Fireworks Show, the time is growing nearer where the Great Smoky Mountain Synchronous Fireflies come to life.   

Each year between the late May and early June the Lighting bugs or Fireflies which ever term you are most comfortable with, perform a spectacle that can be witnessed in only a few places on the planet. You are in Luck because the Elkmont campground is home to this once in a life time MUST Do Event.

However - Because of the popularity of the synchronous firefly display, access to the Elkmont area is restricted after 5 p.m. in late May and early June to registered campers and those who park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center must ride a special shuttle trolley to Elkmont. Access to the Sugarlands parking lot and to the trolley during this period requires a parking pass, which must be obtained in advance through

The #1 QUESTION- When is the Peak of the Firefly synchronous display?

Much like the Fall colors in the Smoky Mountains, there is no way to predict exactly which date or time will be the PEAK synchronous fire Fly display.

Scientists continue to research the special event, what we do know is that the mating season lasts for approximately two weeks each year. The date that the fireflies begin to display varies from year to year-scientists haven't figured out why, like many things in the magical part of the world, weather and environment have a lot to do with the timing. The fire fly ritual depends at least in part on temperature and soil moisture. It's impossible to predict in advance exactly when the insects will begin flashing each year.

Why do Fireflies Flash? The male firefly uses flashing to court his hopeful female. The Great mystery is why they flash simultaneously? If you are an entomologist you realize that there are 19 species of Fireflies in the Smoky Mountains.  But to you and I, the firefly that  we are studying or interested in here  is Photinus carolinus – This is the “synchronous firefly.” The pattern is a series of 5-8 flashes of yellow light, with all individuals in an area displaying this pattern. This is followed by a period of darkness for 8-10 seconds. The synchronous stopping and starting of the flash sequence displayed by this firefly is unique. The large and spectacular displays of this firefly, which may include thousands of individuals, start at full dark about 9:30 pm and displays continue until about midnight. Although the synchronous fireflies in the park have attracted a great deal of media attention, this firefly can also be seen in many areas outside the park. It displays in woods with little understory or at the edge of moist wooded areas.

Rain or shine you are in for a treat, during the two week long mating season, the quality of individual nightly displays can be affected by environmental factors. On misty, drippy evenings following rainfall, the insects may not readily display. Cool temperatures, below 50º Fahrenheit, will also shut down the display for the night. Moon phase has been observed to affect the timing of nightly displays-on nights with a bright moon, the insects may begin flashing a bit later than usual.


Light Show Etiquette

Flashlights disrupt the fireflies and impair people's night vision. The light show is best when you:

• Cover your flashlight with red or blue cellophane.

• Use your flashlight only when walking to your viewing spot.

• Point your flashlight at the ground.

• Turn off your flashlight when you find your viewing spot.

You can also help protect the fireflies and their habitat:

 • Do not catch the fireflies.

• Stay on the trail at all times.

• Pack out all of your garbage.

Where to Stay

You do not want to miss Elkmont's Synchronous Firefly Display and make sure you stay with a trusted Gatlinburg Cabin Rentals. Make sure and review Heartland Cabin Rentals specials also make sure you take advantage of the Gateway to Fun Pass for added savings! When it’s time to retreat from the Tennessee summer heat, you can always count on our cool and cozy cabins. Call Heartland Cabin Rentals at 1-855-977-7766 to reserve a spot for you and your family today!

Category: Things to do

Doug Shanks


By Doug Shanks a Smoky Mountain blogger and writes about things to do in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Wears Valley, and Sevierville, Tennessee. Area interests include hiking, fishing, whitewater rafting, shopping, and family fun.

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