Bear with me here, but I have to share this story. A few weeks ago I was watching an old episode of The West Wing. I'm a huge fan. (And I guess they're ALL old.)

Anyway, in this episode, Air Force One was having issues with its landing gear and was going to have to do a lot of circling until some mid-air repairs were made. Meanwhile, the White House press corps had to be distracted from what was going on because of national security issues. So a staff member had to make up a reason for the reporters to flock to one of side of the plane as they were flying over the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia. The cockamamie story he came up with was about a festival of bonfires or something.

All the while, I'm yelling at the screen, "Synchronous fireflies, synchronous fireflies!" And if anyone had heard me, out of context, I guess they would have thought I'd lost my mind.


Of course the synchronous fireflies are not a West Virginia thing, but an east Tennessee thing. Yeah, the writers could have tweaked the screenplay a little, but no matter. You have the opportunity to enjoy the Fireflies at Norton Creek whether they partake in pop culture or not. And they are a beautiful sight to see.

Every year in early June--this year, the dates are June 8th through the 11th--folks gather at the Norton Creek Resort to view an astonishing "light show" courtesy of who knows how many thousands of fireflies. It's breathtaking.


And it's not the only synchronous firefly show you get in the Great Smoky Mountains in east Tennessee. The Elkmont campground, which offers tickets by way of a lottery, is also a firefly hotspot. Fast forward to the 10:25 mark and you'll see actual footage of the fireflies. And it honestly looks like someone is manning a control board. Truly amazing.


So why do fireflies do something as organized as synchronization? Well, it's all part of a mating ritual, and flash patterns are part of the mating display. Here's an explanation from the National Park Service:

Scientists studying the synchronous firefly have determined that the males flash in unison as a way for the female to be certain she is responding to one of her kind. There are other firefly species flashing at night, and some of them are predatory, so she must be able to recognize males of her species.

Extraordinary. I'm starting to think we don't give insects enough credit.

Anyway, even though we've had a relatively decent winter to this point, it never hurts to look ahead to even warmer weather...a time when it's nice to be outdoors ALL the time. And when those kinds of temperatures get here, wouldn't it be nice to BE outdoors with countless numbers of fireflies in the beautiful Smoky Mountains?

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