Firefly Season in Taipei
April marks the start of firefly season in Taipei. According to the Parks and Street Lights Office (PSLO), major city parks located in downtown Taipei – Daan Forest Park in Daan District, Rongxing Park in Zhongshan District, Muzha Park in Wenshan District – are great choices for entire families to spend leisure time together in the evening, given the convenient access of these parks via public transportation.
In addition, sightings of these illuminated insects have also been reported at Waterwheel Dorm Walkway in Beitou District, Cuishan Walkway in Shilin District, Neigouxi Riverside Walkway in Neihu, Tiger Mountain Trail in Xinyi District, and Sweet Olive Suspension Bridge Walkway in Nangang District. Observers spotting sparkling shimmers in the dark will no doubt gasp in joy and excitement!
According to PSLO Director Huang Li-yuan, Daan Forest Park is Taipei’s most unique firefly repopulation venue. In 2014, PSLO joined hands with Friends of Daan Forest Park and the Department of Entomology at National Taiwan University (NTU) to improve the environment surrounding the eco-pond inside the park through ecological engineering methods. After restoring the habitat through the removal of foreign species and replanting of indigenous plants in the surrounding area of the eco-pond, traces of fireflies began to emerge after disappearing for 24 years. Taipei City became the only developed city with high population density in the world to successfully bring back fireflies after complete extinction of the original firefly population.
Chief Yang from the Youth Park Management Division pointed out that fireflies are extremely sensitive to light sources at night. Among these, lights with frequency from 360 nm to 420 nm and from 550 nm to 580 nm create heavy impact on the mating process of these tiny insects and might result in their inability to propagate. Finding a balance between creating an effective base for firefly restoration and ensuring safety for park visitors at night, PSLO employs hoods to make lights dimmer and preventing them directly illuminating the pond area. The agency would also like to express its gratitude to organizations which donated 8 units of firefly lightings, which help contribute to the restoration effort.
According to Professor Yang Ping-shih from the Department of Entomology at NTU, Luciola ficta is called “Yellow-edged Firefly” in Chinese due to the yellow line pattern that exists at the area between the wings. These fireflies inhabit areas which are below 1,000 meters in elevation. Adult fireflies can be seen across Taiwan all-year-long, but the period with the highest population density lasts from April through August and to a lesser degree from March through October. However, as a result of urbanization and industrialization, the current populations are scattered across conservation zones and in the mountains. Recent reports from Daan Forest Park cited the presence of 26 Luciola ficta, where the males demonstrate more tendencies to fly while the females remain concealed in the bushes. The population is expected to show increasing activities during the latter half of April.
Huang, a volunteer for the foundation, noted that people are excited to see fireflies dancing in the night at Daan Forest Park. Volunteers who attended training programs also acquired a better understanding of environmental protection and conservation. Through the process of removing foreign species such as goldfishes and giant amazon snails from the pond, volunteers become more aware of the importance of public effort in maintaining the natural environment. The volunteers also reminded the public not to release animals into the pond arbitrarily.
Through the success of firefly repopulation efforts, Taipei City successfully won the bid to host the International Firefly Symposium 2017 at the Taipei Zoo Conference Hall between April 24 and 26. International experts and scholars will witness Taipei’s achievements in bringing back the fireflies into the city.