In Western North Carolina during June, The Historic Tapoco Lodge in Robbinsville is the perfect place to see both synchronous fireflies and the Blue ghost Fireflies of the Southern Appalachians.
Fireflies in early summer can create memories that last a lifetime. In Robbinsville, North Carolina there are two species of firefly that are remarkably special; the Synchronous firefly (Photinus carolinus) and the Blue Ghost Firefly (Phausis reticulate). Prior to 1900, synchronous fireflies were known only to a privileged few in the Appalachian Mountains. Once the word got out, people came to the Great Smoky Mountain Park to see the fireflies’ spectacular light show on an annual basis. The site at Elkmont becomes so crowded during peak firefly times that some of the magic is lost to those who don’t enjoy crowds.
The good news is that synchronous fireflies also display at various locations in Graham County. The Historic Tapoco Lodge backs up to the Joyce-Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness area, one of the newly discovered locations to view the only species of firefly in the United States that can synchronize their flashing light patterns.
During the first week of June, on a quiet, dark, rain-free evening, I like to drive up to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest parking lot, park my car and quietly creep up the trail to sit on a bench and watch the woods light up around me. First all is pitch black, then as suddenly as if someone had flicked a light switch, the woods light up like a Christmas tree. Then it is pitch black once again. I can watch for hours. Peak flashing for synchronous fireflies in the area normally occurs within a two-week period in mid-June. It depends on the weather and the progression of spring.
The wonderfully named Blue Ghost Firefly can also be seen in the grassy areas around the Tapoco Lodge. This firefly is much smaller than the average firefly, about the size of a grain of rice. They appear for about one month of the year, usually June, and are most often seen around ten o’clock at night. Their blue light rarely blinks but glows continuously as the small firefly travels through the air. This firefly can actually control the intensity of its light, from low to brilliant. I can easily imagine that I am watching the blue fairy that I’ve read about in stories.