Fireflies in Colombia

Abundance of firefly species finds sanctuary in Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve

It never gets completely dark in the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve in Colombia. After the last sunlight has disappeared, millions of fireflies illuminate the nightly landscape. Fireflies can be found on virtually every continent, but this region is particularly unique for its diversity of firefly species. Recently, the Brazilian researcher Luiz Felipe Lima Da Silveira identified 48 species of fireflies in the area, of which twelve are new to science. This abundance testifies to the health of the privately protected area of Fundación Bioconservancy.

All photos in this article: © Luis Mazariegos / Fundación Bioconservancy

Wonders of fireflies

Fireflies evoke a sense of wonder, perhaps because of their similarity to celestial constellations. They emit light signals as a form of communication and can even imitate each other to attract mates or reduce competition. Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world: 100% of their energy is emitted as light, temporarily. As no heat is generated, this is called cold light.

On a recent research expedition, the Brazilian researcher Luiz Felipe Lima Da Silveira identified 48 species of fireflies the Mesenia-Paramillo reserve in Colombia. Twelve of them are new to science and others were not seen in the area for a century. The findings of Lima Da Silveira unveiled a remarkable diversity of the species group in the reserve.

Mesenia-Paramillo, situated in the northwest Colombian Andes region, has not only a high diversity of fireflies, but is also one of the most important habitats of bird in the Americas. More than 400 species of birds have been observed here, of which 30 are listed ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List and 26 endemic or restricted-range birds. Moreover, new species of reptiles, amphibians and insects are still being discovered in the area.

Vuurvliegjes in Colombia Foto Luis Mazariegos
Vuurvliegjes in Colombia Foto Luis Mazariegos - Bioconservancy

Nature reserve: a healthy habitat

Firefly populations are declining worldwide, with many species either being listed by as Endangered or Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. They are highly sensitive to changes in their environment, and in particular affected by pesticides, light pollution and habitat loss. Increasing human pressure on the environment therefore directly affects firefly populations.

The abundance of species found in the Colombian nature reserve, which has unique topography and a variety of ecosystems, testifies to the health of the protected area that is owned and managed by Fundación Bioconservancy.

Support of the Land Acquisition Fund

The region of the reserve has been severely threatened by logging, cattle grazing, agriculture and gold mining. Much of the forest, rich in biodiversity, was being converted into pasture land. Through support of the Land Acquisition Fund and others, the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve currently covers 7,000 hectares. Much of the previously degraded land has been restored, allowing species to return.

In 2012, the Land Acquisition Fund supported purchasing 800 hectares that was added to the protected area and contributed to connecting a conservation corridor. Through a collaboration with the Dutch Bird Brewery in 2023, Bioconservancy will add five hectares of to the Mesenia-Paramillo nature reserve.

More information? Contact:

Marc Hoogeslag
Senior Expert Nature Conservation
Caspar Verwer
Senior Expert Nature Conservation