Extension: Summer time insect counts measure change and sustainability

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Do you like to watch colorful butterflies in the garden? Do you remember the fascination of looking for fireflies to light up tiny spots on summer nights? Have you noticed a change in the number or types of insects in your home?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, UGA researchers have the opportunity this summer to help collect data for two conservation projects: the Atlanta Firefly Project and the 3rd Annual Great Georgia Pollinator Census.

Count on fireflies

Here’s a fun fact: with over 50 different species, Georgia has more species of fireflies than any other state. The common eastern firefly, Photinus pyralis, is what we see most often. The pale yellow border around the wings and other physical features help distinguish the eastern firefly from other species, as well as flight and lightning patterns. Males blink in flight, creating a J-shaped trail of light. Females stay on the ground in low plants and respond with a brief flash of lightning. Firefly eggs hatch about three weeks after the mating rituals. The glowing larvae benefit the gardens by eating snails and maggots. As adults, they eat flower nectar and can help with pollination.

Through July, Kelly Riddenhour, an ecology graduate at UGA Odum School of Ecology, asked people in metropolitan Atlanta to spend a few minutes counting fireflies in their homes for four evenings. Everyone can take part, regardless of whether your landscape is a hectare of forest or an apartment terrace. Our collective observations, which are fed into the data collection app, are paired with aerial photographs of vegetation and light pollution to help researchers understand the type of habitat that fireflies live in. Other information about our home landscapes can help researchers develop correlations between firefly populations and land management practices.

To participate in the Atlanta Firefly Project, go to https://www.atlantafireflyproject.org/. The researchers will share the results in spring 2022.

Protect pollinators individually

Note on your calendar the 3rd Annual Georgia Pollinator Census, held on August 20th and 21st this year. The task is not difficult; Simply select a flower in a park, school garden, or home decor and watch it for 15 minutes while you count the types of insects that visit it. Then enter your details on the Great Georgia Pollinator Census website.

In the past two years, parishioners counted over 100,000 pollinators – bumblebees, carpenter bees, small bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies and other insects. Through this project, we will all learn about insect protection, pollinator habitats, and pollinator populations in Georgia. To participate, download data collection sheets and identification information or sign up for the newsletter at https://ggapc.org/. Visit the Teachers page for resources on STEAM and school activities.