Synchronized Lightning Bugs

Seeing a sparkling carpet of fireflies in your backyard can be a magical experience. But imagine seeing them all flashing at once—in a symphony of light. Synchronized lighting bugs are very special—and they exist only in a handful of places throughout the world.

Photinus carolinus is the only synchronous species of firefly out of 19 species that is found in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Their mating display is spectacular, and usually takes place between May and June within a two-week window—depending on the temperature and moisture of the soil. The synchronized flashes of this species take place in bursts of five to eight every few seconds or so.

Each year the national park has a lottery for tickets to go see the synchronized lighting bugs. In order to try and give as many people a fair chance as possible to purchase tickets, the park will be having a “lottery” to distribute 1,800 parking passes this year. The lottery will be open from 12 p.m. ET on FRIDAY, APRIL 29 until 8 p.m. ET on MONDAY, MAY 2. Here is how they describe the lottery working:

  • A link to APPLY FOR THE LOTTERY will be added to this page on April 29 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) ET – the link will be active until the lottery closes on May 2 at 8 p.m. ET
  • You must enter the date you would like to attend and you may enter one alternate date in your application
  • Entering the lottery is free of charge
  • Lottery winners will be charged $1.50 and awarded a parking pass
  • There are no refunds, transfers, rain checks or changes to the parking pass
  • Lottery results will be announced on May 10
  • Lottery winners must occupy the vehicle and must present photo identification, which matches the name of the lottery winner, before the vehicle is admitted to the parking area
  • Only one application per household

Click the link below for full details on how to purchase a parking pass for Sugarlands Visitor Center:

Another way to go see the synchronized lighting bugs is to sign up with a tour company that offers evening tours to other areas of the park where they can be found.

Smoky Mountain Guides offers a “Synchronized Lightning Bug Evening Trip‘” – as you get transported deep into a locally known area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you will enjoy heavy h’ordeurves at a boutique pavilion around a fire and then once dark you will be guided to the spot where you will see the magic. For more information about the tour you can follow the link below or read about it on our specials and packages page.