November 4, 2021

Fireflies Need Leaves And Can Light Up Your Yard Next Summer with the Right ‘Invitation’

Fall is a season for leaves in Maryland, but raking away leaves removes the main source of habitat for fireflies—the lovable insects with the feature unlike any other. To help fireflies survive, Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is encouraging homeowners to “leave the leaves” in your yard this fall in to enhance that backyard glow next summer.

Fireflies and some animals need leaves to survive. In addition, lawns, trees and gardens also benefit from the nutrients and carbon in leaves.

Fireflies are beetles, and what makes them so special is that they are able to convert chemical energy into light. Only the male firefly flies, and at dusk people can see the flashing light that the males use to attract females. Each species of fireflies (there are more than 2,000 species worldwide) has its own specific flashing pattern to attract a mate. The females are wingless, plump glowworms that look completely different than the males. They spend their lives on the ground and flash back to the males to answer their call.

The decline in the firefly population is related to the conditions in residential yards, which must be just right for fireflies. Instead of raking every leaf on lawns and under bushes and trees, DEP advises residents to leave behind leaf piles, mulch garden beds with leaves and mow over fallen leaves to shred them so fireflies will continue to thrive around homes and gardens.

Leaves also act as a natural mulch, providing many nutrients for plants and serving as a valuable habitat for fireflies and for many other insects, migrating birds and small mammals that need leaf litter to survive and over the winter.

The My Green Montgomery website has more about fireflies and how they glow if they have the right "invitation." Go to to learn more.