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Reflecting on the Real Magic of Blue Ghosts

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The plants and animals of Green River Preserve are incredibly diverse and we have the privilege of sharing our biodiversity with campers every summer. Amongst our special wildlife lies a small and particularly unique species, found only in our part of North Carolina. Towards the beginning of the summer, for just a few weeks, we are able to offer campers a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the blue ghost fireflies!

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Unlike the typical firefly seen across the United States, the blue ghost is…. blue! These fireflies are only visible for about a month, during their mating season. We are able to see their blue glow while they use it in hopes of attracting a mate. Another unique characteristic of the blue ghost’s bioluminescence is its light pattern. Ordinary fireflies tend to flash on and off, communicating with others, but the blue ghost does this by lighting up for about a minute at a time. These two unique features of the blue ghost are what contributes to the amazing experience that is viewing them.

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After the sun has set, and campers’ eyes begin to adjust to the darkness, small blue orbs of light begin to appear amongst the tree line around the backfield of Green River Preserve. Some gently float low to the ground, while others glow stationary. Once one is seen, it feels as though hundreds are present. As the fairy-like blue light orbs continue to mysteriously hover, counselors may share Appalachian legends about the unique fireflies with their campers. Locals say the fireflies are the ghosts of Confederate soldiers, and their presence can still be felt throughout our mountains.

And just like that, campers have seen the blue bioluminescence of a species found almost exclusively at their home away from home, Green River Preserve.

Story by Audrey Heiser with photos by Brandon S. Marshall