‘Flash’ mob needed to count fireflies!

The annual Clemson University firefly census will launch from 8-10 p.m. May 31, and the lightning bug count will continue through the summer. Residents are asked to help collect data for the Vanishing Firefly Project.

Firefly fans have made the count an international event, with news stories published as far away as India. This year, the Clemson University Social Media Listening Center will be tracking the digital buzz about lightning bugs. The project investigates the impact of human activity on firefly populations, and researchers depend on “citizen scientists” to count the fireflies and submit data via the website form or smartphone apps for Apple and Android.

The goal of the program is to collect data over several years from different habitats across South Carolina and other states to determine the population trend of fireflies.Researchers will analyze the data for potential relationships between land-use patterns, soil and leaf litter quality and firefly abundance.

“The first night launches the count and we’ll post the observations as they come in, but I am hoping people will continue to report their observations throughout the summer.”

Before the counting begins, participants are asked to take notes about habitat types and other environmental factors using a drop-down menu, Clemson officials said. They will count the number of fireflies or flashes that appear within their field of vision within one minute and submit their count to a Clemson University server.

“This year we will display where counts are being observed and the results as they are happening,” said David White, who is overseeing the computer side of the project. A viewing room will be set up at Clemson to watch the census in progress. The Cooper Library Brown Room will serve as firefly census central. Students working with the project will be reporting results on the Web, posting to Facebook and tweeting. What began as a modest citizen-science project has expanded with the addition of computer scientist Roy Pargas, White and Cook.

Researchers are looking at how collecting data on fireflies affects participants’ knowledge about, and attitudes toward, science and the environment. As a final step, they will ask participants to complete a questionnaire on the project website at grnol.co/firefly.


Citizen science firefly count – visit www.grnol.co/firefly for more info.


1.  Review information for participating in a Clemson University research study Read this sectionfirst

2.  Learn the counting procedure and how to enter the data –

4.  Join other citizen scientist and COUNT FIREFLIES on May 31, 2014 from 8:00pm to 9:00pm (and/or for the rest of the summer)

5.  Fill out the educational survey – LINK to educational survey form (Will be Available on May 31, 2014 @ 8pm)