One of the best light shows in the US isn’t created by pyrotechnics or lasers, but fireflies. Every year, swarms of synchronous fireflies light up the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, flickering among the trees and making the forest look magical. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has just released the dates for this annual firefly event, and how you can view it. It’s so popular, however, that you’ll need a little luck to secure a place in the audience.

A lottery system has been established for obtaining parking passes for the Sugarlands Visitor Center and ride a shuttle to the Elkmont viewing area. The lottery opens on April 26 at 8:00 AM EST, and closes on April 29 at 8:00 PM.

Synchronous fireflies are bioluminescent beetles who synchronize their flashing light patterns as part of a mating ritual. Males fly and flash their light, and stationary females respond with a flash. Peak mating season lasts for two weeks each year, with vary dates. This year, it would seem that the best time to see them is between May 30 and June 6.

A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be issued for the eight-day event — at $25 each, plus a $2 cash-only per-person shuttle fee — and lottery applicants will be informed on May 10 whether they have obtained a vehicle pass. Each pass is only valid for a specific date, with an arrival time between 6:30 PM and 7:30 PM.

For more information on the event and to learn more about the synchronous fireflies, check out the Great Smoky Mountains’ event page and the lottery page.


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