Fireflies in Pagosa Springs?!
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
Even though the 4th of July fireworks are over, there may be a natural nightly light show in your own backyard! To the delight of my family, we found fireflies flashing near a wetland in the Lake Hatcher area!
I'm a 3rd generation Coloradan and no one in my family had seen fireflies in our state until I moved to Pagosa 20 years ago. I assumed fireflies were eastern, flatland insects that didn't cross the Kansas-Colorado border. But then to my surprise in 1999, I accidentally found them along Turkey Creek, which shed some light on the namesake of the Firefly Ranch on Snowball Road.
For years I didn't see them again (I didn't try very hard), but in late June my 10-year-old son (who has a bug collection) came across a glowing worm in a Lake Hatcher greenbelt. At dusk the next night, I asked him to take the whole family to the same location and we found more glowing worms (the larval stage of the beetle). And then on the way home, we saw fireflies, the adult version of the beetle.
The Colorado State Extension Office publication describes the insect's range, habitat, and life cycle. Populations have been documented in other Colorado mountain counties such as Route and Saguache, but only anecdotally across the Western Slope. Recently, a friend of mine saw the yellow luminous streaks along the San Juan River Walk near the Community Center.
So if you'd like to see them, visit a wetland near you at dusk. Wetlands aren't covered in standing water year-round, but they do have saturated soils most of the year. Instead of grass, they support coarser, darker green grass-like sedges and rushes.
Spread the word so we can protect this interesting insect and think twice before mowing or using pesticides near a wetland. Fireflies could actually benefit your yard since they eat aphids, caterpillars and other pests. I contacted the CSU extension office to start the process of learning more about this species and adding Archuleta County to the list of confirmed counties. Fireflies are another natural phenomenon that makes Pagosa Springs and the Southern San Juans unique!