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Catching Fireflies

Catching Fireflies the “Right” Way

For a child, one of the most cherished summertime activities is catching fireflies. Many of us can recall scouting the yard, field, or park for these unique little insects with a glass jar in tow. A jar full of fireflies can make a fantastic impromptu night light for a youngster or simply make studying these bugs a little easier; but catching the insects can be a little difficult. We’re going to teach you everything you need to know about catching fireflies effectively and humanely.

What You Need

The main piece of equipment you will need is, of course, a jar with a lid. You might try using a canning jar with a metal lid. Poke holes in the lid so that any fireflies you capture are able to breathe. Inside the jar you should place a wet, balled-up paper towel. This helps to keep the air inside the jar moist so that the fireflies don’t become too dry. It is also a good idea to place a handful of grass in the jar to mimic the fireflies’ natural environment. In addition to the jar, you might want to use a fine net to safely catch the fireflies. Although you can use your hands (as most of us did as children) to catch fireflies, there is an increased risk of accidently harming the insect. Instead, try using a small net with a fine gauge netting that the fireflies can’t escape through. And last but not least, you may want to consider taking a flashlight on your twilight firefly hunt.


Unfortunately, fireflies aren’t always found in the open space of one’s backyard—although sometimes they are! Fireflies are known for the greenish glow that emits from their bodies. This light is often in a sequence-like effect in which the light glows brightly, fades to dark, and then glows again. Fireflies are often found in groups which certainly makes it easier to spot their twinkling bodies. If you can’t find the fireflies out in the open, then it may be necessary to slip on some shoes, fire up the flashlight, and start to walk. Fireflies like to frequent humid areas such as banks near a lake, creek, or pond. If you have water nearby, then start your search there. Fireflies also like to hang out in grassy areas such as overgrown fields. They also frequent forests and other areas with plenty of low-hanging brush. If there are no bodies of water around and you simply can’t find any fireflies near your home, you might consider a fun evening trip to the lake for a firefly hunting excursion.

How to Hunt

First off, you may want to head outside around twilight. This is the time when the sun has just gone down and some stars may be visible even though the sky has not quite finished darkening. If you don’t immediately detect any fireflies, then take a short stroll through the area to get a closer look around. Again, fireflies are almost always found in groups which makes finding their twinkling light patterns all the easier to spot. If you can’t find any fireflies in the area, try pointing your flashlight directly up to the sky or down towards the ground, as this can sometimes attract the insects. Take care not to shine your flashlight directly at the fireflies as this can cause disorientation and will likely drive them away.

Once you’ve spotted the fireflies, it’s time to attempt to capture them. If you are using a net, you may want to get a partner to hold the jar while you are catching fireflies. This makes the process of transferring the fireflies from the net to the jar much easier! Fireflies tend to hover and float in the air rather than flying in concise flight paths. Because of this, you can take your time working the net and try to stay away from quick swiping motions. Think ‘grace’ when moving the net—remember, you don’t want to injure the fireflies! Alternatively, if you’re using your hands you can sometimes walk right into a “swarm” of fireflies and cup your hands around a hovering firefly.

Once you’ve caught a firefly, use your hand to gently guide the firefly into the jar from the outside of the net. If you’re using your hands, just try your best to safely deposit the insect into the jar. Replace the lid quickly to prevent the insect from escaping. Once you have a nice collection, take them home and enjoy their lovely light! Be sure to release the fireflies into the wild no later than two days after capture to increase their chances of survival.