Fireflies could go extinct because of our lights

The pinpricks of bioluminescence that fill the summer’s night may soon be snuffed out forever, a new study contends.

And it will be mostly our fault.

Scientists said fireflies are having a difficult time mating because our lights are always on. Combine that with the normal threats of loss of habitat and pesticide use, and it may contribute to future generations not having the joy of catching lightning bugs during the summer, CNN reported.

The study, published Monday in the journal Bioscience and conducted by a biology professor at Tufts University said one insect, Petroptyx tener, lives in mangroves and needs them to breed, but Malaysia swamps where mangroves once grew are being changed to palm oil plantations and aquaculture farms, according to CNN.

But the bigger threat is the artificial light at night -- lights like streetlights, commercial signs and sky glow that is created by urban centers.

Females are also affecting the feeding patterns of varieties where the females glow to attract, then devour, the males, The New York Times reported.

The lights interfere with bioluminescence or the chemical reaction that causes the insects to light and attract a mate. Environmentally friendly LEDs are too bright for the insects to compete with.

More long-term study of the effects of light on fireflies is needed, officials said.

The popularity of the bug's light show may also be leading to the bug's decline in population. Firefly tourism, where people actually travel to see the natural display of light in Malaysia, Japan and Taiwan, is popular with more than 200,000 visitors in those areas with the resulting traffic is destroying habitats. The researchers, however, don't want to do away with the tours, just manage them and establish sites to control them, CNN reported.

There are more than 2,000 species of fireflies, according to the Times.

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