The following is an excerpt from the 2022 Billings Parks and Recreation Semi-Annual report that details the discovery and confirmation of fireflies in Billings:
For years there have been anecdotal reports of firefly sightings in Montana, however, scientific documentation of these populations was lacking so this phenomenon was left in the same category as bigfoot, leprechauns and unicorns – strong opinions but no real evidence for or against.
Feeling a need for more certainty, an intrepid group of local entomologists, citizen scientists and city parks employees, bolstered by a recent surge in interest in fireflies by scientific groups like the Xerces Society and the Western Firefly Project, decided to follow up on third-hand intel and check out a local legend of an inside-the-city limits firefly population and determine if it was myth or fact.
Heading out to a local City of Billings Natural Area Park wetland on a hot and mosquitoey evening in the summer of 2021, this group found and documented a large population of yellow-green flashing fireflies!!
It turns out these fireflies are in the genus Photuris, family Lampyridae, and that this population has likely been here for some time. We presume that due to their short window of activity as adults (and due to the fact that smart human observers are home in bed when fireflies are out and about), these fireflies have gone unreported and unstudied all this time. Now that we’ve had a chance to look at them more closely and have collected samples from a second season, summer 2022, we realize that there is a chance these fireflies may even represent an entirely new species!
The intrepid firefly finder group, in partnership with the Billings Parks and Recreation Department, are continuing to monitor and study this population with more exciting discoveries sure to come.
We are also realizing that this is likely just one of many firefly populations occurring within city limits. Billings has (depending on how you count them) at least 30 intriguing and beautiful Natural Area parks representing most of the highly diverse habitats that occur in this area. We encourage folks to explore these beautiful areas, especially wetland areas (those with cattails, high grass, and/or marshy soils) in June and July just after sunset for a chance to experience the magic of being surrounded by ten thousand tinker bells floating all around you. Please, be sure to report any firefly sightings to the Billings Parks & Recreation Department.