Lynn Faust of Knoxville, Tennessee read an article in Science News. The article,
written by Mathematician Steven Strogatz of Cornell, explained the subject of
synchronized flashing of the firelies (lightning bugs) known to exist in Southeast
Lynn was a bit disappointed that the fireflies near her home, in
Elkmont, had not been mentioned, so she wrote a letter to Strogatz. In the letter
she detailed the location and time of the phenomenon, then added greater detail
of the display itself.
"I am sure you are aware of this, but just
in case, there is a type of group synchrony lightning bug inside the Great Smoky
Mountain National Park near Elkmont, Tennessee. These bugs "start up"
in mid June at 10 pm nightly. They exhibit 6 seconds of total darkness; then in
perfect synchrony, thousands light up 6 rapid times in a 3 second period before
all going dark for 6 more seconds. "We have a cabin in Elkmont... and as
far as we know, it is only in this small area that this particular type of group
synchronized lightning bug exists. It is beautiful."
the letter, Strogatz put Lynn in contact with Neuroethologist Jonathan Copeland
of Georgia Southern University who decided to be present in Elkmont the following
June to see if this was real. Much to his surprise, it was all very real, right
down to the detailed timing described in Lynns letter. He was proud to announce
to the science world that synchronous fireflies did indeed exist in the Western
Hemisphere, at Elkmont, Tennessee!
Each year, usually between June 7th
and June 14th, nature provides this beautiful, but unusual display. At first a
few fireflies light individually and independently of each other. After a few
moments, more of the little characters join in and they get organized; in no time,
theyre lighting in unison!
The fireflies providing the show are
P. Carolinus. They have a natural sensor that senses when another firefly has
lit up, causing them to light in response. This happens simultaneously with other
Over the years, word of the fireflies of Elkmont has
gotten around and more and more people are showing up to see it.
show occurs between June 7th and June 14th.
Private vehicles are not
allowed in the Elkmont entrance after 5 p.m. The trolley is the most reliable
method of reaching the firefly show.
Gatlinburg provides a trolley service,
roundtrip for one dollar, during that time. Visitors may board the trolley as
early as 6 p.m. at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and it will take them to the
Little River Trailhead at Elkmont. The trolley runs every 20-25 minutes and the
last trolley back from Elkmont departs at 11 p.m.
Be sure to bring blankets
or lawn chairs to sit on. Cover lawnchairs with red-colored cellophane to reduce
the glare of the color white, which will interfere with the fireflies.
trying to get photos, DO NOT use your flash! The light will disturb the fireflies.
Rangers and volunteers are onsite to assist you.
Absolutely no pets
or alcoholic beverages are allowed.
the Following Video from YouTube.