Delaware firefly clears first hurdle to federal protection

December 19, 2019 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed an initial review and determined that a petition to add a firefly unique to Delaware to the Endangered Species list merits further examination.

The service announced Wednesday that the petition to list the Bethany Beach firefly presented substantial information on potential threats associated with light pollution, invasive species, pesticide use and the effects of climate change.

The Bethany Beach firefly is associated with unique freshwater wetlands that develop behind dunes along Delaware’s Atlantic Ocean beaches. Environmentalists are hoping that it becomes the first species of firefly to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The firefly was first identified in the 1950s and has been found only in a sliver of southern Delaware coastland.

“Photuris bethaniensis” wasn’t considered a separate species until Frank Alexander McDermott, a DuPont chemist with a lifelong fascination with fireflies, published his findings in the Smithsonian Institution’s “Proceedings of the United States National Museum” in 1953. He described a beetle with a distinct “double greenish flash” that he first spotted at the north end of Bethany Beach in 1949. It took him several more years to capture enough specimens to make a scientific determination.