Next Up

How to Attract Fireflies to Your Garden

Fireflies add a magical glow to lawns and gardens. Invite these flashy visitors to light up your summer nights by giving them the habitat they crave.

Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money off these affiliate links. Learn more.
1 / 13
Photo: Radim Schreiber/

Find Out How to Attract Fireflies to Your Yard or Garden

Yards and gardens feel magical when fireflies flash and glow. If you live in the Southern or Eastern United States, you probably call them "lightning bugs," says Radim Schreiber, an award-winning nature photographer who posts at Firefly Experience. “The name ‘firefly’ is more common in the North and West.”

It's both fun and helpful to have fireflies around. As Schreiber writes in his Firefly Experience book, their larva eat snails and slugs that feast on our plants. Unfortunately, they're disappearing due to pesticide use, light pollution and habitat loss. Use our tips to attract these good guys and put nature’s twinkle lights in your garden.

More photos after this Ad

2 / 13
Photo: Jennifer Hopwood/

What Is the Difference Between Fireflies and Lightning Bugs?

Regional differences aside, another theory suggests that people who say "lighting bug" live in parts of the country that get a lot of lighting strikes. Whatever you call them, these little insects are actually beetles (family Lampyridae), and most species use their cool lights, produced by chemical reactions, to flirt with potential mates or warn off predators.

More than 2000 species of these bioluminescent beetles live on every continent except Antarctica. Flash colors vary, Schreiber says, from amber to bright green. Once they're adults, fireflies feed on nectar and pollen and live just a few weeks. Some adults don’t eat at all.

More photos after this Ad

3 / 13
Photo: Reflections by Carey/

To Attract Fireflies, Add a Water Feature

One way to invite fireflies to your garden is by adding a water feature. They live and mate around the standing water in marshes, lakes and ponds, and around rivers, creeks and streams. If mosquitoes aren’t a problem, try setting up a couple of birdbaths, container water gardens or fountains that spill water into large basins. Surround the water feature with shrubs, ornamental grasses and other plants of different heights. Shown in the foreground of this image: Graceful Grasses Purple Fountain Grass.

More photos after this Ad

4 / 13

Give Fireflies a Buffet of Plants Rich in Nectar and Pollen

Some adult fireflies don't eat at all, but others eat nectar or pollen. Amp up your garden’s appeal by planting nectar-rich monarda in shades of red, purple or pink, like the flowers shown here. Penstemon, verbena, salvia, wisteria, foxgloves, lupine and cardinal flowers are high in nectar, too. Bonus: they also attract butterflies and bees. If you have room, add a pollen-heavy buffet of asters, daisies, mums and sunflowers. Don’t worry too much about birds showing up to feast on your fireflies. After one bitter bite, predators tend to leave them alone.

More photos after this Ad