Researchers ask public for help tracking firefly sightings in Utah

Posted at 10:00 PM, Jul 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-13 00:00:05-04

PROVO, Utah -- Researchers from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah are working to take anecdotes of fireflies in Utah and document them to gain an understanding of what and where the insects are.

You may be surprised to spot a firefly here in Utah, but researchers said this isn't the first time fireflies have made the Beehive State their home.

“We have reports from way back in the ‘50s that it was here, and we have scientific reports that it was here in the ‘50s and some other anecdotal reports from farmers and others who were out bailing hay at 10 o'clock at night and saw fireflies in their pastures, so we're pretty sure it's native,” said Seth Bybee, a Biologist for BYU.

People have reported seeing the glowing bugs again, so Bybee and researchers from the University of Utah have teamed up to conduct a citizens science project through the Internet.

Bybee said: “We wanted to try and get kind of some more concise information, maybe a GPS coordinate, time of day when they're seeing these things--potentially about the flash pattern: Did they flash really rapidly or did they kind of glow intermittently?”

Bybee said there's about 2,500 different firefly species in the world and 100 or more in the United States. Researchers plan to create a biological tree to find out which species are in Utah.

“Ultimately, a lot of the data we’re gathering for this one species will be plugged into that tree, and we’ll be able to tell where it originated, who it’s related to, anything special about it--just it’s evolution, ecology, behavior, and natural history,” Bybee said.

Bybee said citizens are spotting fireflies around the wettest parts of the state and  along the Wasatch Front.

If you're interested in participating in the project, click here.