A group of Kanawha County students have created a firefly sanctuary at the Morris Creek Wildlife Management Area and collected promising data over the summer they hope will help the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources manage lightning bug populations around the state. 

The project was led by Riverside High School student Lexi Harper and her mother, Tonya, who teaches at Malden Elementary School. Harper, who needed to complete community service hours before starting school this fall, was encouraged to research fireflies when she saw the WVDNR launch a survey to track lightning bug sightings around the state

“I saw the firefly survey and thought it would be good idea to research what they like and need and create an area with all of those things and see how many fireflies we could attract,” Harper said. 

With the help of students from her mother’s class, Harper helped clear an area close to a stream and planted wildflowers, pine trees and dogwoods. Students returned twice a month to keep the area clean and record firefly sightings. 

Over the summer, students observed three firefly species and were surprised by the impact of their hard work. 

“We saw a major increase in the number of fireflies in the area,” Harper said. 

Harper’s elementary class will continue to volunteer at the Morris Creek WMA this fall by building and setting up bat houses to attract more bats to the area and help rebuild the population. Harper said giving students an opportunity to engage in hands-on learning is helpful at a time when school is remote. She said participation in the project is voluntary and that students and volunteers practice social distancing. 

For more information about the WVDNR’s firefly survey, visit wvdnr.gov/fireflies