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Butterfly Pavilion's Pollinator Place is now closed. The space will reopen on Friday, May 3rd as our new Origins: Building Life exhibit!

Colorado Firefly Watch

Did you know that Colorado has native fireflies? Most people are unaware of this due to light pollution and development destroying their habitat. Learn about Butterfly Pavilion's initiative to conserve these small yet mighty animals and how you can do your part!

Butterfly Pavilion’s Firefly Lifecycle Project

To conserve fireflies, Butterfly Pavilion is studying how to breed and raise fireflies under human care. Learn more about fireflies, Butterfly Pavilion’s Firefly Lifecycle Project,  and how you can get involved in your own community! Check out this video to experience our most recent collection in Fort Collins!  

Butterfly Pavilion is committed to making fireflies a part of every Coloradan experience, and our goal is to have fireflies in our new facility when it opens in 2027. You can play a role in the conservation of fireflies by reducing light pollution stress that affects fireflies and other nocturnal animals. 

Learn More!


Become a Community Scientist!

There is a lack of scientific research about fireflies, so we need your help! Become a community scientist and help Butterfly Pavilion track firefly populations around Colorado. Download and print out this datasheet and take it out into the field with you to collect sighting information.

Download data sheet

Have you seen fireflies in Colorado? We want to know where! Submit your sighting below!

Submit data!


Public Locations for Firefly Viewing

Some parks are not open late enough for visitors to see fireflies during public hours, however, they may host guided walks to view fireflies after hours. Please respect the posted hours of all parks.

Riverbend Ponds Natural Area in Fort Collins, CO

  • Open until 11 pm
  • Fireflies flash along the boardwalk in the northeastern side of the natural area
  • Fort Collins Natural Area volunteers lead guided firefly walks in June and July

Morey Wildlife Reserve in Loveland, CO

  • Open from dawn to dusk
  • The City of Loveland hosts Fireflies in the Meadows walks in June and July
  • Bicycles and dogs are prohibited

Sawhill Ponds Open Space, Boulder, CO

  • Open until 11 pm
  • Fireflies have been spotted on the south side of the open space near the railroad tracks

Fountain Creek Regional Park in Fountain, CO

  • Open until 9 pm
  • The Fountain Creek Nature Center offers firefly hikes in June and July

Filoha Meadows Nature Preserve in Redstone, CO

  • No access in the evenings
  • Roaring Fork Conservancy leads guided firefly walks in July

Chatfield State Park, Littleton, CO

  • Open until 10 pm 
  • Firefly walks are sometimes hosted by the Denver Audubon Society Nature Center

 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Firefly Facts 

What are fireflies and why do they flash? 

Fireflies are beetles in the family  Lampyridae. Like other beetles, fireflies have six legs, two eyes, two antennae, a pair of wings, and a hard exoskeleton to protect their body.  There are over 2,000 species of fireflies across the world . However, in Colorado fireflies exist in small populations dispersed throughout the state.   Fireflies flash to  find mates. Flashes are like a language for fireflies. Species have their own unique flashing patterns to recognize each other.

How do they flash? 

Fireflies flash using bioluminescence. A chemical reaction takes place inside their light-producing organs. When oxygen is exposed to certain chemical compounds inside the organs, the reaction produces light.  Not all fireflies flash as adults. There are three types of fireflies: flashing fireflies, diurnal fireflies, and glowworms. The diurnal (active during the day) fireflies do not flash as adults, though they may emit some light.  Glowworms may flash or emit a constant glow. The fireflies that we refer to as “lightning bugs” are the nocturnal flashing fireflies.

What is their habitat? 

Fireflies live near fresh water. They are often found near creeks, ponds, rivers, lakes, marshes, and even hot springs. They are commonly seen in forests, fields, and meadows near these sources of water. During the mating season, flashing females tend to wait on vegetation while the males fly, so wetland areas with low vegetation are popular.

What do they eat? 

Larvae eat a variety of prey items, though some specifically eat soft bodied invertebrates such as earthworms, slugs, and snails. Some species don’t eat at all as adults, while others are predaceous. Females in the Photuris genus even mimic the flashing patterns of females in the Photinus genus to draw in males to eat them. Some adults consume nectar from plants and may act as pollinators.

How do they survive in winter? 

Fireflies hatch from eggs in July through August then develop into larvae. The larvae are voracious predators and develop through multiple instars (stages of development). They protect themselves from freezing winter temperatures by sheltering in the ground or under tree bark.

 

Fireflies in Colorado 

Which species are in Colorado? 

We truly aren’t sure! A handful of species have been positively identified in Colorado; however, we lack scientific research about the exact species for many of the population. More research is needed to identify the firefly species in Colorado and their ranges.

Where can you see fireflies in Colorado? 

Firefly sightings have been reported across the Front Range and in Western and Southeastern Colorado. Look for open spaces with wetlands. The flashing fireflies can be seen around late June through July when the nights in Colorado begin to warm up. They typically start flashing after 9:00pm.

 

Support 

Why are fireflies important? 

Fireflies are beloved for their unique light shows, but they also serve important ecological roles. They act as pest control for their prey species such as snails and slugs. They act as food for wildlife such as toads, frogs, newts, birds, and spiders. Some species which eat nectar and pollen may even act as pollinators.

How can we protect fireflies? 

Fireflies are threatened by habitat loss, pesticide use and light pollution. You can protect firefly habitat by:

  • Supporting land conservation and habitat restoration.
  • Staying on designated paths when visiting natural areas to avoid damaging their habitat.
  • Enjoying fireflies in the wild and not catching them.
  • Turning off unnecessary lights near their habitats in June through August.

How can I get involved? 

Become a community scientist and help Butterfly Pavilion track firefly populations around Colorado.

Become a Community Scientist!

Conservation is in your hands! Be a scientist and volunteer to help monitor butterflies, or restore urban prairies to save the tiny giants around the globe!

Learn More!