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S26 Episode 02: Protecting and Appreciating Fireflies


 Dr. Doug Taron, biologist and Chief Curator of the Chicago Academy of Sciences at the Peggy Notebaert Museum, discusses the unique characteristics of fireflies and how to appreciate and protect them.

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The common Eastern firefly is the most common species found in Illinois.

Quotes from the episode:

“As beetles, fireflies have a larval stage that looks very different from the adult stage. The larval fireflies are really rather wild looking creatures. They don’t fly, they look like tiny little trilobites, with big spikes sticking out to the sides. They look like mini dinosaurs. When you leave the leaves and twigs in your yard at the end of summer, you are offering protection to the larval stage. That’s the stage that’s out and about now. The larval fireflies are predatory. They feed on little tiny snails and slugs and earthworms and millipedes – really little creatures that live down in the leaf litter. So you are providing habitat to them by leaving leaf litter.”

“Like most insects in this part of the world, they have to survive the cold winters. And they do that by secreting large quantities of natural antifreezes into their body fluids. These natural antifreezes include chemicals like glycerol, which is chemically very similar to the antifreeze in your car.”

Fireflies live in the larvae stage most of the year, and depend on moist leaf litter and the small creatures living there as their food source.

About our Guest

Dr. Taron has been with the Chicago Academy of Sciences at the Peggy Notebaert Museum since its opening in 1999 and heads the insect conservation research. He received a BA in Biology from Colby College in Waterville, Maine in 1979 and a PhD from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1984.

Dr. Taron is Director of the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network. In this video, he demonstrates tagging monarch butterflies.

About Fireflies

When and where to see them in northern Illinois: Adult fireflies are flying about and flashing their lights from mid-June through July. Look for them on a sultry evening, during a season with average or higher than average rainfall. They like moist habitats, and while they adapt to more urban and suburban settings, they are most abundant in wetlands. At the Naperville Park District, see them along the DuPage River at Pioneer Park, Knoch Knolls Park or DuPage River Park. Also recommended is the McKee Marsh at Blackwell Forest Preserve. Or look for them in your back yard.

Read an article from the National Recreation and Parks Association about how parks can protect fireflies.

Read a ParkTalk blog post about leaving the leaves for firefly habitat.

Look for nature programs at the Naperville Park District in the summer featuring fireflies.

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On Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 Naperville Park District officials heard the good news for which they have been waiting for many months: the District has achieved national accreditation through the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA).

The decision was announced at the NRPA national conference in Atlanta following a formal hearing before the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).

Naperville is only the second park district in Illinois to earn this distinction and the 104th nationally accredited agency in the nation; there are more than 10,000 recreation agencies in the United States. The Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies accredits a handful of park agencies each year that have completed a multi-step process involving a self-review by the agency, a site visit, and an evaluation and formal report by the Commission.

“We are extremely proud to bring this honor to Naperville,” said Park District Executive Director Ray McGury. “It’s an affirmation of our high standards and also an encouragement to continue bringing high quality recreation and parks experiences to our community.”

The Park District’s accreditation process began approximately one year ago and included an extensive self-evaluation by staff and a 5-day visit from CAPRA reviewers this past July. Maintaining the accreditation requires annual reports and 5- and 10-year reviews.

Park District staff members noted that the CAPRA process has helped them see the big picture, focus on long term goals and plans, review plans more regularly, organize documents so that they are accessible and useable, and collaborate more effectively with other departments and outside organizations.

Our Mission
We provide recreation and park experiences that promote healthy lives, healthy minds and a healthy community.
Our Vision
To be a national leader in parks and recreation providing and promoting high quality experiences and facilities at a great value to our community.
Core Values
Health and Wellness, Environmental Education, Stewardship and Sustainability, Community Enrichment, Public Safety, Accessibility, Personal Growth and Enrichment.
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