KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It seems over the last few years there aren’t as many lightning bugs, or fireflies as some call them, as there used to be during Midwest summers.

Many people have great memories of watching or catching them on warm summer nights.

Research has shown light pollution, pesticide use, and loss of habitat from development to be a factor in lightning bugs decreasing.

The flashing insects are endlessly entertaining to children and adults.

Their quiet presence adds to the magic of a Missouri or Kansas summer night.

The Missouri Department of Conservation says to start looking for lightning bugs in early June.

There are a number of lightning bug species in Missouri. The adults of most species are readily identified by their brown or black, soft bodies, somewhat leathery forewings, and a usually red or orange pronotum (a shieldlike plate) that covers the head from above. The last few segments of the abdomen are pale yellow and can glow yellow, green, or sometimes red, depending on the species.

They are Missouri’s only flying, bioluminescent insects, according to the MDOC.

Lightning bugs are nocturnal and crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) and are usually seen in spring and summer.

They’re commonly seen in meadows, yards, edges of forests, and around streams.

The MDOC says if you want to encourage lightning bugs in your area, avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides.

Here are a few things you can do to help lightning bugs in your area. According to Firefly.org:

  • Install water features in your garden.
  • Allow logs to rot. Fireflies spend up to 95% of their lives in larval stages. They live in rotting logs, and soil/mud/leaf litter and spend from 1-2 years growing until finally pupating to become adults.
  • Turn your lights off at night (lights can confuse them when they’re trying to mate).
  • Refrain from using lawn chemicals.
  • Plant a garden! Gardens are meccas for fireflies, helping to replace lost habitats. They also supply fireflies with lots of food sources. If you have garden snails, slugs, worms, and other insects, fireflies can lend a hand by helping to control these pests. Plus, females need a place to lay eggs and gardens offer an oasis with a source of soil moisture for larval development.
  • Plant trees and native grasses.
  • Don’t over-mow your lawn.
  • Don’t rake leaves and bag them up for the trash. You are raking up firefly larvae and discarding them.