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Habitat use

Luciola italica‘s fascinating lighttracks in Pavia, Italy. Credits: Tito Sacchi.

Where do fireflies live? In Italy, where only terrestrial fireflies are recorded, fireflies have been traditionally considered as symbols of countryside spaces, but their habitat also includes wetlands borders, rivers, drainage channels, streams banks, woods, shrubs, uncultivated areas, ditches, parks and wide gardens.

Lampyris noctiluca‘s habitat. Credits: Giuseppe Camerini.
Lampyris and Luciola lusitanica habitat. Credits: Giuseppe Camerini.

However the countryside remains the main land destination in Italy, so firefly populations survival is affected by the availability of “compensation areas” such as hedgerows, uncultivated areas, small woods and ditches whose sides are not sprayed. Moreover, their survival is supported by the availability of preys on which larva feed on such as slugs, snails and other higropholous invertebrates.

Cepaea. Credits: Giuseppe Camerini.

Urban areas are not suitable habitats for fireflies, because of limiting factors such as fragmentation and poor size of green areas and above all light pollution. Artificial light works as the most important critical factor against fireflies, which are photophobic as they evolved in order to adapt to night darkness; in addition, artificial light makes communication by light signals impossible. Nonetheless, when urban areas are provided with parks large enough and interconnected to other green areas, firefly populations can survive if the inner parts of green areas are not artificially lit as demonstrated by a research on Luciola italica in the urban area of Turin (Picchi et al., 2013).