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7th Annual PA Firefly Festival Set for June 22: A Light in the Forest

Thursday, June 20, 2019 @ 12:06 AM

Posted by Joanne Bauer

FirefliesKELLETTVILLE, Pa. – The 7th Annual PA Firefly Festival will be held on Saturday, June 22, at the Black Caddis Ranch in Kellettville.

A Light in the Forest

Ms. Avalon Owens and her “Tufts Team Firefly” from Boston, MA, along with other firefly experts and local naturalists will be exhibiting at the Black Caddis Ranch from noon to 5:00 p.m.

Ms. Avalon Owens, a Ph. D. candidate, Tufts University.

Ms. Avalon Owens, a Ph. D. candidate, Tufts University.

Bucknell University professor Dr. Sarah Lower and her students will present on the efficiency of firefly light vs. LEDs.

Don Salvatore from the Firefly Citizen Science Project will be on hand all day to talk about firefly watching etiquette and teach the participants how to be more “firefly friendly.”

Enjoy the music, food, art/craft vendors and fun.

Parking is $5.00 per vehicle.

Ibiyinka Alao, the United Nations Ambassador of Art, will be showing his animated film “My Fireflies” and displaying his glow-in-the-dark paintings.

Self-guided firefly viewing areas will be open for free on the Black Caddis Ranch property.

This is a rain or shine event. It will only be canceled in the event of severe thunderstorms.

About the Synchronous Firefly

Ever since the Firefly International Research & Educational (FIRE) team first identified the Synchronous Firefly in the Allegheny National Forest in 2012, the world of firefly researchers, evolutionary biologists, and citizen scientists have been focusing on Kellettville and Forest County each summer.

They have come mostly to observe and collect samples, but this year is different.

This year, the “Tufts Team Firefly” from Boston will conduct experiments and further the research on the rural fireflies of Forest County. Ms. Avalon Owens, a Ph.D. candidate from Tufts University, and her research assistant, undergraduate student Ms. Caroline Dressler, are spending the summer here to research the effects of artificial light on the courtship behavior, i.e. rates of flashing and mating, of bioluminescent fireflies.

Summer interns: Belle Ralston, a Senior at West Forest HS on the left and Morgan Silvis, a Penn State student also from West Forest.

Summer interns:(Left to Right) Belle Ralston and Morgan Silvis.

The PA Firefly Festival organization is also supporting Owens’s research with a couple of summer interns from Forest County: Ms. Morgan Silvis, a junior at Penn State, and Ms. Belle Ralston, a senior at West Forest High School. These four young women are all dedicated scientists interested in looking at how different colors of light may or may not affect our rural fireflies.

The entire team working on the experiment, including Caroline Dressler, an undergraduate at Tufts University on the far right.

The entire team working on the experiment, including Caroline Dressler, an undergraduate at Tufts University on the far right.


Owens has been studying “urban” fireflies and fireflies reared in the Lewis Lab at Tufts for three years, and now she wants to replicate her study in the field with wild fireflies.

She is setting up lights in the field at Black Caddis Ranch and observing how the females react to the light in what is usually a completely dark environment. Most everyone knows that fireflies don’t like bright white lights, but is there a color that doesn’t bother them? Perhaps blue or red light? Or perhaps light of any color can cause problems for fireflies. This is what Owens and her team are trying to determine.

Why does this matter?

Firefly lovers, including many members of the scientific community, have been noticing that fireflies are decreasing worldwide, and one reason is probably light pollution. Light pollution has been increasing across the world exponentially (approximately 6% per year according to Owens) as LED lights become increasingly energy-efficient and affordable.

Owens and Dressler catching fireflies for their experiment.

Owens and Dressler catching fireflies for their experiment.


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