By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jul 02, 2021 at 5:01 AM Photography: Royal Brevvaxling

Not all Milwaukee neighborhoods have fireflies, but those that do are pretty lit up right now with flying, blinking "bugs" looking for love. (More on that later.)

I’ve lived in a few Milwaukee neighborhoods/suburbs – Shorewood, Riverwest and Rufus King – but it wasn’t until I moved to Walker’s Point almost a decade ago that I saw so many lightning bugs, or what others call fireflies. It's a regional thing. 

A quick search on Google provided a font of fascinating info about these pyrotechnic lil' guys and inspired me to track down a local entomologist to find out more.

Thelma Heidel-Baker is the scientist in residence at Riveredge Nature Center and holds a Ph.D. in entomology. She says the places with the most fireflies have the most firefly-friendly habitats, which include waterways/moist areas, vegetation, tress and the the right creatures – mainly slugs – for them to feed on.

In Wisconsin, according to Heidel-Baker, there are three kinds of fireflies: daytime fireflies (they do not glow or flash), night fireflies that do flash and glowworms, non-flying female fireflies that live on the soil, and they live here all year ‘round but are in larvae form for 1-2 years and only emerge as full-on fireflies in the summer.

Heidel-Baker also contributed to the list of five fun facts about fireflies, so if you wanna geek out for a minute, here we go:

  • Fireflies do not sting, bite or carry disease.
  • They blink as part of their mating ritual and to attract mates. The males usually flash first and then wait for the females to flash back.
  • The lights also ward off predators because the chemicals that create the bioluminescence are unappealing and/or harmful.
  • Fireflies are a type of beetle with more than 2,000 different species.
  • There is not a confirmed firefly season in Wisconsin, but they appear sometime in June and are gone usually by mid- to late-August.


Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.