As the sun sets in the Japanese town of Tatsuno, thousands of fireflies begin glowing, producing a spectacle that usually draws crowds of delighted visitors, but this year, the dance of the incandescent insects is being performed without spectators, after COVID-19 prevention measures forced organizers of a popular firefly festival to cancel the event.
The decision might have disappointed fans of the brilliant 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,” said Katsunori Funaki, from the city’s tourism division.
“During the short, 10-day period, they find a partner and lay eggs for the next year,” he said.
When conditions are right, with neither rain nor wind, as many as 30,000 fireflies perform their magic during the 10-day period in Tatsuno, a town set on a river in central Nagano Prefecture.
“Historical records say a massive number of fireflies were seen along the Tenryu River in the late 19th through early 20th century,” Tatsuno Mayor Yasuo Takei said.
However, the creature almost died out in the area, as silk production and other industries flourished further upstream, creating pollution.
After World War II, 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.
“When we have lots of fireflies, we get a spectacular landscape full of lights, with both stars and glowing fireflies reflected in the water,” Takei said.
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 fresh water, and baby insects grow by eating the snail, Funaki said.
The town has also created a park complete with ditches to bring in fresh water from the river and waterfalls to produce an oxygen-rich aquatic home for the insects.
The silence of this year’s mating season makes the ritual all the more poignant, Takei said.
“The brief shining of the light is so impressive, making me feel that I also have to live my best,” he said.
Firefly festivals are staged around late June in many parts of Japan, and the glowing courtship ritual has long been celebrated in the country.
“This may be part of Japan’s unique aesthetics, but they are so precious to us because we can only see them for a short period of time,” Takei said.
Festival organizer Tatsuki Komatsu 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.
“Fireflies are a creature that grows over a year and flies for only 10 days to leave behind the next generation before dying,” he said.
“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,” he said.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference