Delaware Public Media

Here's the latest on Delaware's firefly (not the festival)

Jan 1, 2020

The federal government may be taking measures to protect a firefly native only to Delaware.

There are thousands of species of fireflies, but the Bethany Beach Firefly is the only one found exclusively in the First State. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently announced it has completed an initial review and will begin the process of assessing whether or not to add protections for the bioluminescent beetle under the Endangered Species Act.

This comes after two organizations petitioned in May to have the firefly added to a federally protected list. The petition outlines potential threats to the insect like light pollution, invasive species and pesticides.

USFWS ordered surveys of the firefly’s known locations this past summer. The surveys were led by DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. Environmental Program Manager Joe Rogerson says biologists were out near Bethany Beach last summer trying to catch and tally the firefly.

“Which is difficult. It’s dark; we’re not using lights,” said Rogerson. “So you’re trying to get over to where one flashed and use a net to capture the individual and then once you have it in the hand, you can then confirm that you do have the correct species of it being Bethany Beach Firefly.”     

Rogerson says the state will expand its survey effort in this upcoming summer and is looking for ways to accurately count how many fireflies might be present at a given site.

That data will help the federal government to evaluate if the species is threatened or endangered.

“We’re talking about a species whose geographic range is Delaware. So it’s important to not just Delaware’s biodiversity as far as species of wildlife that we have here, but, obviously, worldwide with this is the only known distribution is to occur in our state,” said Rogerson.   

If it is approved, the Bethany Beach Firefly will join a list of federally protected species native to the First State including the bog turtle, the piping plover and the northern long-eared bat.

A previous version of this story said the federal government would evaluate if the Bethany Beach Firefly was threatened or endangered later this year. Delaware Public Media has been informed that timeline is unlikely.