With festival cancelled by virus, Japan fireflies dance alone

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 coronavirus prevention measures forced organisers of a popular firefly festival to cancel the event.

The decision may 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 behaviour of fireflies. They glow to communicate between the male and the female,” Katsunori Funaki, from the city’s tourism division, told AFP.

“During the short, 10-day period, they find a partner and lay eggs for the next year.”

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,” Mayor Yasuo Takei said.

But 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. (AFP)