I understand fireflies are sensitive to light pollution. I can't imagine Chicago's any different from other major cities. COVID has people staying home a lot more but that has nothing to do with street lighting. I wonder what's going on.
I do think that living organisms are extraordinarily adaptable if the changes are gradual and bounded. Most of us have this idea that an ecosystem is this delicate and fragile thing, but nature actually has a lot of robustness and redundancies built-in (which are inefficient but increase chances of group survival).
I'm not sure why it was a good season for them. Like you say, traffic, lighting, pesticide sprays on farms, all really the same despite COVID. Reduced air traffic I don't think would have an affect? Even after I sprayed my vineyard with insecticide to deal with japanese beetles they were fine, and continued to prosper in and around there.
It may just be that we've had an unusually hot dry year, I assume where you have as well. Maybe that's advantageous for them somehow?
I wonder if this is cyclical behavior. We had a year like that last year down in NJ. This year it was back to maybe only a week. I live in the west part of the state surrounded by parkland. Rainfall was the only thing that was dramatically different this year. Last year was extremely wet spring and early summer (when they appeared) followed by an extremely dry end of summer into fall. This year we've had average rain in almost every month. The rain evidence isn't anecdotal, I have a state rainfall gauge a couple miles down the road from me with records going back at least a few decades.
One of my favorite memories of cycling through the midwest in the early 90's was watching the redwing blackbird population slowly recover.
Most individual people won’t feel the change that’s happened over their lifetime unless they’re wondering why it doesn’t snow any more or how they ever managed without air conditioning; it shows up in higher costs for national-scale-multi-year weather damage or crop and fishing productivity.
And of course, this is a global rather than local effect, so some places have more change than others. My first trip to the USA was the 2014/15 winter when there was simultaneously record cold on the Atlantic coast and record warm on the Pacific coast.
Yet, the vast majority of scientists who study ecosystems disagree: https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/ipbes_7_10_add.1_en_1....
More at https://ipbes.net/global-assessment
By 2015, the bugs has drastically diminished enough for me to remark upon it before coming across any studies. The confounding factor here though is that the county I was in had a lot of development in it over that time. My routes stayed mostly the same (meaning both ‘where I drove’ and ‘how many buildings were along them’) but I can’t discount the expansion of the surrounding sprawl as a big factor.
Even after I moved to a neighboring more-rural county though, with a longer commute to the same workplace, I did not really see an increase.
Even accounting for this, there is sufficient evidence for a significant drop in insect populations. While it's hard to have exact numbers, the estimations in decline of population range from 70% to 90% since the 1980.
We also had the sub-Brood XIII cicadas launch out in the western suburbs which was insane. They came early and they came out in huge numbers.
And at any rate, specialization only works if the problems stay relatively stable, or temporary. If we aren't stopped/don't stop ourselves we will keep inventing new insults every ten years and nothing can adapt to anywhere near that rate of change.
You're also forgetting the Carboniferous period. It took 50 million years for anything to puzzle out how to benefit from surplus lignin. In 50 million years are we going to be around? In 50 million years is anyone going to remember that Alpha Centauri is a system humans used to live in (before we used it up)?
The lot is between the river and our local garden district. I suspect I'm part of a migration route between them (I figured I was too far from the river for dragonflies, but I see at least 2 a day) It's changing my plans for the space a bit.
As for me, I've never cleaned my windshield in my life. The rain washes off the little bits of dust. There's nothing else to clean.
Our insect loss is much more likely due to climate change than light pollution though due to our sparse population between the cities.
Georgia has lots of them. Or at least we did last year. I haven't gotten out much in the COVID-19 world.
A year without fireflies.
I have a few memories of extensive fire fly experiences back in the day. But when I really think about it, I don’t remember all the days and years without a dramatic memory. And the ones I have may be distorted.
I had a similar thought a few years back and researched it only to find that the fire fly population where I lived hadn’t really changed. I just happened to be keying on a memory that had a large amount of them and not taking into consideration that wasn’t the standard case. That their yearly population is dependent on certain weather conditions during specific months. And that some years they have a bumper crop and others not so much, but on average look about the same. That doesn’t mean it’s the same story where they live of course.
Probably worded it poorly though.
Driving on a highway for 10h without any bugs on it - common sight in Europe nowadays. 10years ago, I would need to handwash it after 3h on the highway.
Anecdotes can be a very powerful tool for critical thinking.
Our brains do this. We key on certain experiences and memory favors the extreme. Over time our memory does distort. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. But that we should be careful with anecdotal memories to make generalized pr specific statements about today’s reality.
As for “history repeating itself” - does it? Or do historians who write history repeat themselves? Historians write about long sequences of events that seem inevitable and if only such and such action were taken then a disaster or triumph would have been avoided or accomplished. But the recording of select historical events is more a persons narrative - a story - rather than the actual past.
What are the motivations of the historian writing about the past? What have they negated? What have they chosen to focus on? What of their memories or the subjects they used to inform their history? Which people do you choose to understand what they “said or saw”?
I think I worded it poorly.
If I had to wager money, I'd say it was a blight introduced by another insect. Around the same year I saw an invasion of Asian lady bugs, the firefly memories stop. There were literally millions and millions of those Asian lady bugs released or hatched one year.
Speaking of the lady bug explosion, this year they are incredibly rare . Not sure why, but they went from being a massive nuisance to being a very rare sight (of any variety).
Humans are absolutely having a calamitous effect on insect life in a variety of dimensions, however on the flip side it does seem like insect populations massively fluctuate for entirely natural reasons. A bit of an early summer, or more rain in April, etc, and one insect type explodes and another wanes.
1 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24071745
2 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24071745
"Firefly populations are declining worldwide, for a variety of reasons. Fireflies, like many other organisms, are directly affected by land-use change (e.g. loss of habitat area and connectivity), which is identified as the main driver of biodiversity changes in terrestrial ecosystems. Pesticides and weed-killers have also been indicated as a likely cause of firefly decline."
"Finally, since fireflies depend on their own light to reproduce  they are also very sensitive to environmental levels of light and consequently to light pollution. Multiple recent studies investigate deeply the effects of artificial night lighting on fireflies."
If there is any increase due to the lock down, my speculation would be, that it is related to less cars on the streets.
However I was replying to someone who stated that they live in a rural area so lighting isn't the cause. I also live in a rural area, albeit on the edge of a very large city (e.g. there is the large light bubble on the horizon, actually from several large cities in each direction), and fireflies are absolutely rampant, and have been for years. My comments makes zero claims about the worldwide population of fireflies, or about how many fireflies there are in your or anyone else's backyard. In mine there are loads.
However it is a reality that localized ebbs and flows happen. Nature is prone to waxing and waning. The reproductive potential of many insects is so enormous that one year can be a dearth and the next overwhelming. Small seasonal weather variations, of the completely ordinary and natural kind, can dramatically impact the mix.
To go back to the ladybugs, specifically the Asian ladybugs, last year they were everywhere. Every corner would have a bunch of them. They'd get in the house and then smash into the ceiling near every pot light leaving discolorations (blood or something). This year I've seen barely a dozen or so all season. It's just a complete 180.
Aside - I swear I am not intending to be combative, but the citations make me recall a prior comment-
The Wikipedia page you link cites the second link you gave as its source to demonstrate the worldwide decline in fireflies. That citation cites nothing as its source but fond recollections of youth.
To me, it sounds like your area experienced an intentional release of the Asian Lady bug last year. TBD if they kill off all your fireflies, obviously that's pure speculation on my part.
As far as firefly decline, I don't live on the edge of a city or town. I'm actually quite rural. There are two places I've seen the decline. My home and my family's cabin 2 states away, both very rural. There has been no significant habitat change in either area, both having forest and established farms, very little development over my lifetime.
This is not an effect I noticed gradually or recently. It was about 15+ years ago now. Fireflies basically just disappeared, all at once. The colors of the remaining fireflies in both locations are also different. They were previously a yellow-green glow, and have been replaced by a more white-bluish glow.
Anyway, I don't know what caused their decline, but it's very apparent, and light pollution has nothing to do with it in my area.
They are widely believed to be a major factor in the current decline of insects.
Spot on, this is usually the real explanation for the typical 'I saw none'/'oh but I saw a bunch'/'I saw more than ever' rethoric applied to one single year or even multiple years of observations. Thinking of it, goes for basically all slowish trends related to nature. Unless you're approaching it scientifically, i.e. actual systematic counting which is hard btw, it's oh so easy to be fooled. That being said, see other post: yes fireflies are in decline (just like many other insects unfortunately) and light pollution is a factor.
"Doom!" is a very seductive narrative that we fall to regarding virtually every change in our environment. Sometimes reasonably, as with AGW, but other times just taking natural variations and screaming end times...then just going quiet when they recover again as we move to the next cause.
Observational and experimental studies provide evidence hat ALAN adversely affects firefly populations. Several studies have shown negative correlations between high levels of ALAN and firefly abundance.
The citation for the statement "Firefly populations are declining worldwide, for a variety of reasons" is a link to firefly.org. That is a small, Texas group that appreciates Fireflies, which is nice. But it is home to no studies, no research, no analysis. Nor does it (that group, or the wiki page that was cited to apparently refute my personal anecdote...) cite the publication you mention. So I'm not really sure what we're discussing here.
I'm not disagreeing that there is a decline for a multitude of reasons, or that light is probably bad, but if someone says "my yard has no fireflies the apocalypse is upon us" it probably isn't credible.
This is incredibly obvious to be in my neighborhood. My landlord (very regretfully) has a company spray insecticide in our yard. There are no bugs, not a single bug sound.
The area I live in has many nature conscious people so about 1/10th of the yards are gardens, wildflowers, etc rather than grass. Just walking by them you hear a tremendous symphony of bugs! Then it almost entirely goes away in the next yard that is just grass.
In a local park there is about 1/4 acre that is only mown every couple of years as a "pollinator friendly" prairie-ish area, and the number of fireflies in just that section is astonishing. There are just hundreds and hundreds, it's beautiful.
Thinking about the increasing suburbanization of the US makes me sad. We subsidize this lifestyle so heavily here that it doesn't make sense to live anywhere else, but the land use is just awful.
It's not even wildlife and plants. I'm in southwest Ohio and the closest reasonably dark sky spot is almost 2 hours away. My S/O and I have been to some dark sky viewings hosted by a local observatory about 45 minutes away. I have really good night vision and can just barely see the milky way. My S/O /thought/ she could see it, but only realized the magnitude when we went to this national forest 2 hours away. It made me sad that she hadn't been able to see some of the wildness of our world.
I truly hope the "suburban dream" that has been pushed for so many decades starts dying off, so at least some of the wild areas in the US remain intact. There's already so little in the midwest.
When digging for some conduit, my toddlers kept wanting to find worms in the dirt and waited in excitement as I dug about a yard of dirt.
No bugs, no worms.
Light pollution has the potential to get even worse with LED lighting which is no longer filterable like sodium lighting was.
Death Valley in California has pristine night skies. I cannot even begin to describe how different it is. Think - fine diamond dust on black velvet. There are stars everywhere you look. Amazing.
The most preserved one is surely around the Pic du Midi in French pyrenees. It is actually an Dark Sky Reserve since 2013.
And according to this map¹, North of Scotland seems a good spot too, among others.
1 : https://avex-asso.org/dossiers/pl/europe-2016/ (in French, but the colors are pretty self-explanatory)
So it’s not actually dark where you are and walking, it’s just dark where no one is.
Nighttime Light Pollution May Be Cause of Insect Population Decline
"An analysis of the effects of artificial light at night on insects shows that there is strong evidence to suggest a link between nighttime light pollution and declines in insect populations."
That may be true when you're optimising a program, but is very much not true in ecology. The parent comment is generally correct with its list of drivers of biodiversity loss (compare the IPBES global summary: https://ipbes.net/global-assessment).
A key feature of ecology is its extreme complexity and the myriad factors at play in any given situation. Of course, there will be individual situations in which one factor is indeed dominant. Those cases actually often end up as textbook examples precisely because they are so rare, like the snowshoe hare/lynx Lotka-Volterra cycles. In most situations, researchers have to resort to some pretty advanced statistics to try and figure out what the most important factors are. There are almost always several, and getting any one factor to explain 60% of the variance is very rare. (That's why principle component analyses -PCAs- are so popular in ecological research papers.)
It's heartbreaking and happens at least once a year, that someone near conventional agriculture/horticulture is posting a desperate for advice in every forum they know about because some asshole upwind let a cloud of 'cide drift over their horticultural masterclass of a lot, and everything is shriveling.
Recompense can be hard to get. Maybe we need an ACLU meets EFF for biodiversity.
Let's ignore for a moment any agenda to ban monocultures, and look at not just the kind but the density. Pollinator species would be doing better if the monocultures weren't so seemless. We need a mosaic of habitat and to reduce the distances between the ones we have. But it's an uphill battle to maintain them in the face of drift and runoff (really I think we shouldn't be cultivating hilltops, that would be a start, and simply dodges the runoff problem)
Also good is using more LED street lamps that focus the light where we need it, rather than all over the place. Light pollution is bad, and street lights are very power hungry, with the old sodium lights consuming up to 0.25kWh per hour.
Suffering sound and light pollution is a hidden additional burden placed on lower economic status people.
Poor people experience health inequities due to increased exposure to light and sound, but more pressingly air pollution. 
The status of enjoying quiet is even clear in the middle class. You can even see the emerging divide on transit in who has noise cancelling headphones and who does not.
Focusing light where needed is good. Using LEDs, as we do now, has downsides though. LED lighting in cities is making astronomy and astrophotography and even animal life worse in some cases.
Traditional sodium vapour lights pollute around a wavelength of 589 nm. That's the yellow/orange sky you used to see in the sky around cities. In theory, if you filtered out that wavelength 10 years ago, you'd be able to eliminate a lot of light pollution. But today, with more LED lighting, the pollution tends toward white/blue. This is "nicer" in some objective and subjective ways. e.g. colour accuracy. But it's a bitch to filter out, without also removing all the white and broad spectrum we want to see in the features of the night sky.
Animals are also sensitive to white and blue light emitted by modern LEDs, and the NatGeo link and others go into why this can be a bad thing, compared to "old fashioned" lighting methods, inefficient as they are.
Potential small (safety?) downside: red light illumination does greatly reduce colour discrimination at night versus white light.
The problem with cold light is that it is apparently attracting insects much more than broad spectrum incandescent light sources, even more than any potential breeding partners, which in turn affects mating.
edit: Last longer as in have already outlasted anything I had before them, the filaments I mean. Also not really more expensive to buy. And their energy usage is ridiculously low.
What is it about your current bulbs or the filament design that makes you not classify them as LEDs? The power use looks the same and the listed CRI of >=80 doesn't inspire confidence.
Ah yes, the CRI. What can I say? I now have them everywhere, except the cellar. I prefer warm white, which they are. I can't see 'wrong' colors with them. Crosschecked that with a cassette of about 40 Faber-Castell color pencils right now, during my local morning twilight. Full spectrum.
Because "retro-fit" they fit in my old sockets. They just hit a sweet spot for me. I dim, or 'tune' them by using one to three circuits, the switches and my rooms are wired to allow for that.
Old, but not obsolete ;-)
That part is not actually true. Any light will obscure the stars; if you want to compare different colors, it's the middle of the spectrum that contributes most, but the difference is small.
As an amateur astronomer, the LED lights are a big problem because their light pollution is hard to filter out. Sodium is easy, it's nearly monochromatic, so a simple filter will remove most of it. Mercury is not super-hard, the spectrum is not very broad and it's pretty uneven. But LEDs have a broad, even spectrum, which is impossible to filter out.
At the end he at least addresses his ignorance:
> [18:39] You may have noticed that I didn't talk about the blue light from LEDs, and how this is supposedly ruining our eyes. That's because the "science" behind this is questionable, at best.
> [18:55] [discussion of chart with percentage blue light of various light sources]
> [19:04] [...] but considering that our eyes can withstand the intensity of sunlight, which is far far greater than any normal artificial light source, and also has a lot of blue light, and ultraviolet, which definitely is harmful, I think the 'blue light' thing is just fear-mongering. If someone can point to some verified, peer-reviewed research supporting this, and not a dodgy website, I'll consider changing my stance. In any case, the high flexibility of LED technology means it can be tuned in pretty much any way we like.
The research on the harm of blue light is out there -- For example, one of the comments links to "Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology" . (only partially read at this point - I don't know if this paper gets into the mechanism of damage done by blue light, as I understand it...)
The sun hangs high in the sky and casts light on everything. We never need to look at the sun directly, we use the sun's light indirectly, after it bounces off of things. The atmosphere scatters the sun's blue light before it gets to us . Artificial lights hanging on poles emitting photons we can't avoid having beamed directly into our eyes... Blue photons have relatively higher energy levels, and different physiological effects, than orange photons... [note to self: expand on this.]
The preceding video was about High Pressure Sodium lights, which I thought was good too:
My transcription of the video's faulty conclusion (italics added):
> To conclude: although the High Pressure Sodium light is very efficient, its primary output color is misaligned with our nighttime visibility. Only about 1/4 of its light is actually effective at stimulating the cells in our eyes. Although the cool color temperatures of many LED replacements is harsh and aesthetically displeasing, studies have shown that it is not only more efficient, but also makes driving at night safer. There is, however, the potential for greater circadian rhythm disruption and larger amounts of skyglow, using these bluer light sources.
> Still, it seems clear that the High Pressure Sodium is on its way out. Advancements in LED technology are happening at a breakneck pace. Just 10 years ago, they weren't seen as viable, but today even the least efficient of LED replacements ends up emitting the efficiency of High Pressure Sodium once scotopic light output is considered.
> As it stands in 2018, we are faced with the choice of efficiency over aesthetics. I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy roadways lit with relatively-warm 3000K LEDS, and these also wouldn't disrupt sleep much. But you can save a lot more energy, and potentially have safer roadways, with 5700K lighting.
> Either way, it seems clear that LED technology will very soon overtake the tried-and-true High Pressure Sodium lamp, just as the High Pressure Sodium itself replaced the mercury-vapor lamp. And in 40 or 50 years, who knows what technology might light our roadways.
 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/pdf/mv-... - "The radically different power spectrums can look similar when viewed directly by the eye, irrespective of how much blue emission is present."
edit: this page has a discussion of drop-sag lights vs. proper fully-shielded lights: http://www.skykeepers.org/good-bad-lights-cv.html
But there is a somewhat interesting paper on North Korean entomology: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3554493/
Drive around -- billboards are lit up at night. Headlights might as well be pointed into the sky and are blinding. Stores are scarcely less well-lit when they are closed than during operating hours. I can go for a walk at night and read a paperback the whole way. Porchlights are left on all night, for no good reason.
Sometimes, on a my regular trips to visit a friend, we go out at around one in the morning to a road far from other towns and I can actually see the faint haze of the Milky Way, but in the suburbs, I am lucky to pick out thirty stars and/or planets. I don't even think that all of this constant light makes us any "safer."
Given that insects are one of the corner stones of our ecosystem, we can congratulate ourselves that we are very successful in destroying our own life support systems through predatory exploitation and sheer carelessness.
That said, that there are negative systemic effects on the planet's ecosystems that are directly related to the massive production and use of herbicides and pesticides is not as surprising.
Light though? Even after reading that article and looking through scholar.google to find papers that associate lighting with insect decline, I'm not convinced the use of lighting at night has a material impact. The ratio of unlit/lit habitat seems wildly in favor of unlit.
And yes, I understand that unlit areas are often agricultural, and those areas contain the most insecticide/herbicides. It still appears to me that the root cause is the use of those products in farms and not that cities are poor replacement habitats.
The sound pollution might have the adverse effect of causing some plants to lose this ability to preserve energy for reproduction, indirectly impacting insects via the food chain.
Currently, due to the massive use of chemicals in the countryside, cities start to be havens for insects. There is a lot of beehives in London for example (too much actually according to a beekeeper I talked with). Until we manage to massively shift the way we do agriculture it might make sense to make it as safe as possible for insects in urban areas.
My experience has shown that when people are skeptical of your argument they are less likely to comply voluntarily and so the good that you hoped to do is lost and you have damaged your credibility with the people you need to support these ideas.
A small example of this in action was back in 2010 when Google decided they were going to stop stocking bottled water in the fridges around campus because the "energy waste and plastic disposal problem." The only problem was that Google regularly achieved over 95% capture of recyclable trash out of their bins and the energy saved was on the order of maybe half a dozen employees not commuting from San Francisco.
The real reason they wanted to do this was of course cost. They could replace bottled water with filtered dispensers and that would save them a few pennies per employee per month. I had a good conversation with some folks in charge that they could have said, "We're giving every employee an insulated water bottle in your choice of size and color (12, 20, 32, or 40 oz) that you can keep at the office and use to get water from our fancy new dispensers. This will save us money, AND its better for the environment." That would have been honest and gotten a good reception I believe with the rank and file. But dressing up the reason in a cover story that everyone easily poking holes in simply lowered morale and confidence in management.
But you correctly hint at the actual reason for German politics:
Nothing that hurts the economy like banning pesticides or cars will be done. So a scapegoat is needed, in this case the lights.
Depends on where. Germany has a very different structure due to its population density than most parts of the US, for example, with comparably less unlit habitat.
So that may be a less important issue in some places but having enough suitable space for themselves in the US doesn't help insects in Germany.
> The research also found that modern cars, with a more aerodynamic body shape, killed more insects than boxier vintage cars up to 70 years old.
But not everywhere: the less farm land, the more insects. Like, from literally none on farm land to "I have to completely clean my helmet because of all that yellow goo" in larger forests.
Perhaps they were a bit oversold.
Because LED’s got so inexpensive, instead of saving money, the savings was used to increase the town luminosity.
Now, because we moved away from sodium lights, the amount of daytime-like blue light being emitted during the night has skyrocketed.
I hope my country will follow suit...
The best outdoor light is less.
Your own personal kick switch for public street lights!
Trying to interfere with that because you're too lazy to buy a black-out curtain is a terrible idea.
"My comfort should trump everyone's safety"? Still no.
/me shakes head and thinks "Here is your sign! Hold it!"
I had a big orange street lamp hanging right in front of my bedroom for years.
I cannot explain why many regions that are fairly up North don't have solid outdoor blinds or shutters.
(Plus, the major temperature control move in summer Germany is to open everything possible at night and close it during the day. If you have mostly cool nights and good insulation that is sufficient.)
This is wrong. They should stick to ~2500K bulbs.
Also, other than bees, which insects specifically benefit humans?
Yes, constant light does have a strong effect on animal circadian rhythms, but for insects, the problem is rather that they exhaust themselves from flying around the light source too long.
Basically most of the plants that were shut down simply didn't get their runtime extended again and would've been shut down in a few years anyway.
And the utility companies owning them get billions in compensation and don't have o pay for waste disposal of all the irradiated parts either...
Facts that nuclear proponents always conveniently ignore...
> What is expected to be the last new coal plant to come online in Germany entered commercial operation on May 30, more than a decade after it was first planned.
> The 1,100-MW Datteln 4 power plant, owned by Uniper and located in Datteln in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, opened despite the German government’s stated plan to end coal-fired power generation in the country.
I remember star nights walking outside as a kid seeing the Milky way Galaxy full of stars.
As for ordinary street lights, the purpose of street lights are for crime prevention, but there is motion sensors. Do we really need to have the lights on with no one on a street?