Are They Called Lightning Bugs or Fireflies? Southerners Know the Right Answer
These light-up insects put on the most magical show of the summer.
Summertime in the South is synonymous with many distinctly seasonal things, like fresh peaches, sunset porch hangs, tomato sandwiches, and tubing down the river. Oh, and watching the twinkling, light-up bugs that linger in the bushes, on the edge of the woods, or just beyond the lake water. In fact, that might be best done during a sunset porch hang whilst eating a tomato sandwich or fresh peach cobbler. There could be tubing involved, too. We just don't recommend tubing in the dark, of course. We're not silly. See how it all comes together? That's summertime in the South.
Those floating incandescent insects that only come out during a short period in the summer are known by many names — most commonly either lightning bugs or fireflies. Though, we've also heard other creative labels such as firebugs, candle flies, or lamp bugs. Many might remember heading out with a Mason jar in hand as a child, hoping to catch one for good luck. Harder than it looks. Others might have heard of the synchronous fireflies of the Great Smoky Mountains that create a wondrous display of synchronized blinking lights (blinking butts, some joke) each summer for the world to see.
Turns out, there is a good chance that whatever you call them has a lot more to do with who you are and where you spent your childhood than the insects themselves. Southerners and Midwesterners will most likely be referring to the illuminated flying beetles as "lightning bugs." Head further out West, past the desert roads of West Texas, more folks call them "fireflies." Here and there (in the Northeast, for example), people might use the terms interchangeably, but the vast majority comes down to regional preference. Southerners are decidedly Team Lightning Bugs. It's just how it is.
Some researchers attribute the difference in nomenclature due to weather — of all things! The South and Midwest receive the majority of lightning across the nation, while the West (sadly) sees the most wildfires. However, we feel more simple about it. If that's what Granny called it when showing you the magical light-up bugs for the first time ever, that's what you probably call it.
So, where do you stand? Fireflies or lightning bugs?