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Posted: June 15, 2011 6:28 a.m.

Giddens: Fireflies light up the night

Fireflies are out in force at twilight the past few nights.

My deck in Oxford has been firefly central.

The woods have been aglow for about two hours each night around sunset. There are literally hundreds of them lighting up our backyard.

Even Sophie the granddog has been sitting up there with us and watching the bugs instead of looking for frogs to chase in the ivy.

It's the best show in town, and it's free.

University of Georgia Extension Service County Agent Ted Wynne says he noticed an influx of fireflies this year on a recent visit to the north Georgia mountains.

"There were just tons of them out in the distance," he said.

It's been dry of late, but the spate of wet weather earlier in the year apparently contributed to a bountiful supply of bugs locally.

Jonathan Copeland, an entomologist at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, says the best way to ensure your backyard is a firefly haven is to keep it dark and have damp soil and a bit of running water.

The ones you see lighting up are males flying about doing their best to attract females.

The females are on the ground and respond to the males, sort of like an airport beacon.

Fireflies aren't going to eat any pests and they aren't good food for other insects, either: They're just pretty to look at.

The larvae are beneficial, though, chowing down on snails and annelids in the soil, according to Dr. Copeland.

If you're like me, as a kid you'd probably poke a few holes in a Mason jar lid and then catch the fireflies and place them in the jar to watch as you fell asleep. If you're also like me, you'd probably forget about the bugs the next day and they'd expire.

Here are some recommendations on a sort of catch-and-release program for fireflies from Dr. Copeland:

Get a two-foot deep net and attach to bamboo. Single out a male flying about and figure out which way he's flying or wait until he comes to you. Dr. Copeland uses the analogy of leading someone with a basketball pass.

Once you catch the fireflies, get the Mason jar, poke holes in the top, then make a little habitat for the critters by placing a bottlecap in the jar with some water, a wick of toilet paper and a slice of apple.

Here's the important part: Don't forget to let them out back in the yard the next day.


Stop signs


I absolutely abhor having to stop at the phantom rail crossing throughout Newton County where the abandoned Norfolk Southern line crosses our roads.

I might come to a rolling stop there, or, confession time, maybe just roll on through if no one is coming.

George Allen called in on Monday wanting to know what to do at the intersections where the tracks have been paved over but the stop signs remain.

The good news is that the tracks have now been paved over in the city of Covington.

Covington Police Chief Stacy Cotton says that the stops signs have been taken down inside the city. The exception is on Old Covington Road behind the Bojangles' where the stop sign remains and is enforced. That's because the track there is a spur and is still in use to park train cars.

Please stop there.

Tharon Giddens is editor of The Covington News. Reach him at (678) 750-5011 or at tgiddens@covnews.com.

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