Preecha Jiabyu used to take tourists to see the banks of the Mae Klong River aglow with fireflies.
These days, all he sees are the fluorescent lights of hotels, restaurants and highway overpasses. He says he’d have to row a good three kilometers to see trees lit up with the magical creatures of his younger days.
“The firefly populations have dropped 70 per cent in the past three years,” said Preecha (58), a former teacher.
The fate of the fireflies drew more than 100 entomologists and biologists to Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai last week for an international symposium on the “Diversity and Conservation of Fireflies.”
From backyards in Tennessee to riverbanks in Southeast Asia, researchers said they have seen fireflies — also called glowworms or lightning bugs — dwindling in number.
Researchers cite urban sprawl and industrial pollution that destroy insect habitat. The spread of artificial lights also could be a culprit, disrupting the intricate mating behaviour that depends on a male winning over a female with its flashing backside. “It is quite clear they are declining,” said Stefan Ineichen, a researcher who studies fireflies in Switzerland and runs a website to gather information on firefly sightings. There are some 2,000 species and researchers are constantly discovering new ones.