Here come real stars to fill the upper skies, And here on earth come emulating flies, That though they never equal stars in size, Achieve at times a very star-like start. Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part, wrote Robert Frost in his poem Fireflies in the Garden.
Fireflies may not achieve the position of stars, as pointed out by Frost, yet the glowing beetles intrigue and mesmerise people. To catch a glimpse of these twinkling beauties, a group of trekkers and nature enthusiasts march into the darkness across river banks and hilly terrains before the onset of the monsoon. They sit quietly under the trees as they watch the night get lit up by thousands of fireflies.
Firefly-spotting is a popular activity among nature lovers in the city and the insects can be spotted in flocks across several hilly and forested ranges in the outskirts of the city. A few travel and adventure groups conduct firefly camping, festivals and treks just before the monsoon to witness the open air “light shows” by the fireflies.
Vaibhav Khaire, an adventure guide at Mumbai Travellers, has been conducting firefly-spotting for the last four years. The club conducts it after a pre-monsoon shower every year.
“The activity is conducted between the last week of May and second week of June. Days leading up to the monsoon are when fireflies are spotted in their full glory,” said Khaire.
The club conducts three firefly treks and a camping. Treks are conducted in Kalavantin near Panvel, Peth near Karjat and Prabalmachi near Panvel. The camping site for the fireflies is at Bhandardara. “We conduct special night treks to spot the fireflies in these scenic destinations. Pre-monsoon period is ideal for these insects to mate, therefore they gather in large numbers,” said Khaire.
A group of 50 to 100 is part of these spotting that include both adults and children. There are several spots where the fireflies gather and flicker across the forests to display their glow. The guides give an understanding of these insects by giving an idea about the scientific and biological facts about the fireflies. They are bioluminescent insects that produce the glow to attract potential mates. “In a city like Mumbai, people have not experienced spotting fireflies while growing up. Therefore, there is a lot of fascination among people to come and watch these sparkling insects in a forest or hills,” said Khaire.
In these camping spots, they can be spotted after 8 pm in good numbers. The guides usually take people to the dense forested areas, where they can be found dancing in their full glory. Khaire said it is difficult to capture them in cameras but sometimes people get lucky. “Population of fireflies is dwindling and they are truly the stars on earth. It’s an amazing experience to watch these beautiful, mystical insects glow in red and yellow. It’s an extravagant spectacle and brings one close to nature in the company of these merry little friends,” said Arvind Dixit, a regular at firefly treks and camps.