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The ‘magical’ fireflies are coming back to the Smokies. Here’s how you can see them.

Fireflies: The Smokies light show

Thousands of tourists are drawn every year to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to witness the mating ritual of a species of fireflies that blink in beautiful synchrony.
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Thousands of tourists are drawn every year to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to witness the mating ritual of a species of fireflies that blink in beautiful synchrony.

If you missed the chance to see the elusive synchronous firefly’s amorous appearance in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year, get ready. They’re coming back.

The park has set the dates for synchronous firefly viewing inside the former settlement of Elkmont for the 2019 season. Park officials will run shuttles into the area to see the fireflies from May 30 through June 6. Visitors will only be allowed into Elkmont for firefly-viewing via the shuttles or with parking passes, which will be distributed through the annual lottery. 

To enter the lottery, go to www.recreation.gov. Lottery applications will be accepted from 8 a.m April 26 to 8 p.m. April 29.

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Synchronous fireflies display their lights during mating season at Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Radim Schreiber for Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Synchronous fireflies have a two-to-four-week mating season during which hundreds of males in close proximity will flash their lights at the same time in search of a mate. The annual flickering of the fireflies has become a tourist draw for areas where the bugs are known to cluster, including Elkmont.

For more on this unlikely North Carolina tourist attraction, check out this story from last year’s event.

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Martha Quillin is a general assignment reporter at The News & Observer who writes about North Carolina culture, religion and social issues. She has held jobs throughout the newsroom since 1987.


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