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Fireflies tour a chance for education, appreciation

Would you believe your eyes, if 10 million fireflies lit up the night?

Local residents may be asking that question this weekend during Amherst's Fireflies Night at Walton Woods Park.

Friday and Saturday mark Amherst’s third annual fireflies night, and the event continues to grow each year.

Amherst Youth and Recreation Department Parks Coordinator Elizabeth Graczyk says it’s an opportunity to literally see the park in a different light.

“Oftentimes, people don't get to experience a park at night. Our parks open at sunrise and close at sunset," she said. "We feel it's important that we share, you know, what, what’s the park look like at night? What sort of creatures are, kind of, lurking?”

While fun to look at, fireflies provide more value than just lighting the sky on a summer night.

The larvae, also known as glow worms, eat things like slugs and snails that can be a nuisance to farmers and gardeners, while adults function as pollinators.

Naturalist Carol Rogers, who leads the lightning bug tours, says the education aspect is important because it helps dispel misconceptions about insects.

“With the fireflies, (a) big part of it is seeing them, but then add the education component that we're learning that they are valuable, and insects overall," she said "People don't seem to understand the value, the significance that each creature on the earth plays in the ecosystem.”

Pollution and loss of wetlands, and other suitable habitats can contribute to declining populations, but numbers often fluctuate yearly, and some species in New York are currently increasing, New York Natural Heritage Program zoologist Katie Hietala-Henschell says via email.

Grayczyk says the event is open to all members of the public and starts at 8:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The goal is around 60 people per tour, to keep the experience personal.