Clemson University researchers concerned about a possible decline in the number of fireflies around South Carolina are asking for the public’s help.
Scientists at the school’s Hobcaw Barony preserve in Georgetown County say they want to know if population growth and human activity is creating an impact on coastal habitats. So they are asking for South Carolinians to join the annual “Firefly Count” on Saturday, June 1 from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
“You can just go to any location and then write down the number for one minute,” biogeochemist Alex Chow said. You can either submit your findings on Clemson’s website or by downloading a special Apple app. The “Flash Counter” app was produced by Clemson computer science associate professor Roy Pargas and graduate student Doug Edmonson.
Clemson will also host a field day at Hobcaw simultaneously with the statewide count
Chow and entomologist Juang-Horng “JC” Chong launched the Clemson University Vanishing Firefly Project in 2010. Chow said the pair is examining the impact of urban sprawl on coastal habitats.
Since they lack the ability to study the entire coast, Chow said they decided to focus on fireflies, which he considers a good bellwether species that the public is likely to notice.
“It’s an insect that is really sensitive to environmental changes,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “More importantly, he wanted to have involvement from the public’s citizen scientists.”
Early summer, especially late May to early June, is considered the prime season to spot fireflies. This is the fourth year that Clemson has organized the Firefly Count, and the second year that the count has been conducted statewide. More than 100 people participated in 2012, Chow said.
Chow says the team also wants spotters to report if they do not see any of the insects, since the researchers would also find that significant.