The Great Smoky Mountains National Park's synchronous fireflies flash in waves across hillsides in the Elkmont region as part of their two-week mating season. Credit: Tom Sherlin / The Daily Times via AP

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It’s common for people to want to leave on outside lights at night, likely for security reasons. However, there are many reasons to not do this, primarily because it can be very harmful to certain insect populations, especially our beloved fireflies. Light pollution is listed as a major reason for steep declines in firefly and other insect populations (insects that are crucial for feeding birds, among many other ecosystem services).

Not only are outdoor lights harmful to fireflies, moths and other nocturnal wildlife, they also attract browntail moths. These moths are strongly attracted to light and therefore tend to create their webs near outdoor lights. So, if you want to attract fewer of those pesky buggers to your yard, leave off your outdoor lights or opt for motion sensing lights, timers, and/or shielded light fixtures. Also keep lights as dim as possible and opt for red light if possible since it attracts/disturbs the fewest insects. In addition to outdoor lights, make sure your windows are covered up at night as well to prevent light from spilling outdoors.

Rachel Smith