Participate

We need your help to find ghost fireflies in North Carolina! To become a ghost hunter, please follow these steps.

1. Choose an evening with the right conditions.

Ghost fireflies prefer temperatures above 60 degrees F and may fly between April and June.

2. Find a location where ghost fireflies may be present.

Ghost fireflies prefer mature, mixed hardwood and pine upland forests. A few examples of likely habitats:

This image depicts an area in winter from above, highlighting the blend of pine (green) and hardwood (brown) trees:

3. Visit your location 45 minutes after sunset.

It needs to be completely dark to see the faint glow of these fireflies!

4. Observe for 30-60 minutes.

Ghost fireflies are thought to fly about 20-30 minutes each night in two separate peaks during their season. Observing for 30-60 minutes gives you the best chance of spotting ghosts at your chosen location.

Male Ghost Fireflies

Male Piedmont Ghost firefly. Photo by Matt Bertone.

What to look for:

Male ghost fireflies are small and tend to fly close to the ground. They keep their faint light lit continually as they fly. The light looks blue from a distance.

What to record:

Time first observed, time last observed, total number of individuals at peak activity, did you see any mating?

Female Ghost Fireflies

Male Piedmont Ghost firefly. Photo by Matt Bertone.

What to look for:

Female ghost fireflies are flightless and will give response calls from the leaf litter.

What to record:

Time first observed, time last observed, total number of individuals at peak activity. If you observe any females, carefully examine them with a 10x hand lens (ideally without handling them), note how many glowing light spots they have, and then return them to the place where you found them.

This female Piedmont Ghost has two glowing patches visible. Photo by Jerry Reynolds.
A few things to keep in mind as you make your observations

Watch for hazards! Copperheads or uneven ground can be dangerous as you move around in the dark.

Be careful where you step! Female ghost fireflies are flightless and in the leaf litter. Try to avoid stepping on them as you make your observations.

5. Report your observations!

Make a report whether you see ghost fireflies or not! Your reports of conditions and locations where ghosts are not found are just as important as positive reports of fireflies.

Learn More About Carolina Ghost Hunt

Our team has presented on our project for two local lecture series! Learn more about fireflies, the ghosts in North Carolina, and how to participate with either of these videos.

Environmental Lecture Series by Lake Johnson Park

Lunchtime Discovery Series by the NC Office of Environmental Education and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences