Japan cancels firefly festival amid pandemic
Japanese fireflies have to dance alone this year
Published: 11:23 PM, 8 July 2020 Updated: 01:37 PM, 21 July 2020
Thousands of fireflies begin glowing as the sun sets in the Japanese city Tatsuno, producing a spectacle that usually crowds of delighted visitors. But this year organizers of the popular firefly festival have been forced to cancel the event as a coronavirus prevention measures.
The decision may have disappointed fans of the bugs, but it provides an unusually serene atmosphere as the insects blink on and off, appearing to dance through the black night air.
The natural spectacle lasts just 10 days in early summer and is the final chapter of a firefly’s life.
“The glowing is the courtship behavior of fireflies. They glow to communicate between the male and the female,” Katsunori Funaki, from the city’s tourism division, told AFP. “During the short, 10-day period, they find a partner and lay eggs for the next year.”
When conditions are right, with neither rain nor wind, as many as 30,000 fireflies perform their lighting dance during the 10-day period in Tatsuno, in central Nagano prefecture.
Mayor Yasuo Takei said, “When we have lots of fireflies, we get a spectacular landscape full of lights, with both stars and glowing fireflies reflected in the water.”
“Historical records say a massive number of fireflies were seen along the Tenryu river in the late 19th through early 20th century,” Takei said.
However unfortunately, the creature almost died out in the area as silk production and other industries flourished further upstream, creating pollution.
After the second world war, the town worked hard to restore the environment and protect fireflies, and the insects now attract tens of thousands of visitors during the annual summer firefly festival.
Fireflies are often said to be evidence of a pristine natural environment, but the insects only thrive when other conditions are also met.
“To help fireflies, we need to have a snail called ‘kawanina’,” Funaki said.
Fireflies spend about nine months of their year-long lifecycle growing in freshwater, and baby insects grow by eating the snail, Funaki said.
The town has also created a park complete with ditches to bring in freshwater from the river and waterfalls to produce an oxygen-rich aquatic home for the insects.
Tatsuki Komatsu, an organizer of the event said he felt the insects were looking for a partner more freely with no humans around but said he hoped the festival could be held again next year.
“We want to take care of them so that they will leave eggs for next year and we will once again see fireflies dance wonderfully.”
Mayor Takei believes that the silence of this year’s mating season makes the ritual more poignant.
News Source: The Guardian