Ecology + Justice + Culture in the American South

Tell Southerly your best firefly and cicada stories

A cicada in Tennessee. Photo: Denise Mattox/Flickr

We want to know what fireflies and cicadas mean to you. Submit memories, reflections, photos, and more to be featured in our project about how climate change is changing the world around us.

With the longer days of Daylight Savings comes gardening season and the impending return of some of our beloved Southern bugs. Cicadas emerge from the ground, build a habitat in the trees, and provide the soundtrack to our summers. In April or May, billions are set to emerge for the first time in 17 years and settle in the Midwest, Northeast, and Southern regions of eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, and northern Georgia. They’ll join the flickering fireflies — or lightning bugs — that many of us spent the summers of our youth capturing in our hands or in mason jars. 

However, these bugs are not immune to the effects of climate change, which has already interrupted their life cycles. Experts say habitat loss, light pollution, and pesticide use threaten fireflies’ future on Earth. Our warming planet could be contributing to cicadas emerging in some cases four years ahead of their 17-year cycle. Broods of cicadas won’t emerge from the soil until it reaches 64 degrees, which has been happening increasingly earlier in the spring, and experts say cicadas are promising bioindicators of climate change.

In an effort to capture all of the ways climate change will alter our lives, Southerly is asking our readers to submit memories, reflections in the form of photos and voice notes about what these bugs mean to you. Maybe fireflies signal memories of a beloved relative or place you spent your youth. Perhaps you remember one of the last times cicadas swarmed and their bodies littered the ground, as the adults die seasonally.   

Here’s how you can participate in this multimedia project: 

  1. Submit your reflection via this Google Form
  2. Email a voice memo, photos, written reflections (please keep them brief!) to pitch (at) southerlymag.org with the subject: Bugs 

Submissions close on April 1 at 11:59 p.m. central. Reach out with any questions: pitch (at) southerlymag.org. 

Disclaimer: Submitting photos, voice memos to Southerly through email or uploading to our form grants Southerly permission to use the content if we feature your story on our website or social platforms.