Fireflies are one of few insects that we appreciate and that capture our attention, but they're getting a late start this year in the Chattanooga area.

Stylianos Chatzimanolis, an entomology professor at UT-Chattanooga says it's because we had a cooler than normal April.

"They require warm weather, and I don't think we had the warmest of Aprils here. That probably contributed to having one to two weeks delay in their development," says Chatzimanolis.

Firefly larvae also love April showers, but they couldn't all survive the excessive rain that poured down last month.    

"The larvae have very different preferences than the adults in term of how they live and where they live and what they eat," adds Chatzimanolis.

These beetles, also known as lightning bugs, are finally starting to come out. Chatzimanolis has captured a few in his back yard.

Weather isn't the only thing that determines whether you'll see a lot of fireflies. Some scientists believe deforestation and urban expansion may lead to decreases in firefly populations.

Fireflies thrive in the woods, especially in leaves and logs on the ground. This is why land development in some areas threatens their survival.

"They tend to like forested areas. They don't do very well in just your typical grass and lawn areas," says Chatzimanolis.

You've probably seen fewer fireflies near growing cities, or anywhere else that has a lot of artificial light. This can confuse the fireflies, interrupting the use of their natural light which is produced by a process called photoluminesence.

"They rely on the light signals to communicate between male and female and finding mates," explains Chatzimanolis. "So, if there's a lot of light pollution around them then it's harder for them to find their mate."

There's still a lot more research to do, but Chatzimanolis wants to make sure the lights of the fireflies don't burn out in the future. Not only are they beautiful, but their numbers can also tell us a lot about what's going on around us.

"They have a lot of similar habits as other insects. So, we can use fireflies as sort of an indicator species for the overall ecosystem health," says Chatzimanolis.

Here are a few easy things you can do that might help:
• Leave your outdoor lights off as much as possible.
• Close your blinds at night to keep artificial light from getting outside.
• Plant trees around your home with natural litter around them.