How to Make a Small Lantern to Attract Fireflies at Night
Small hand-made lanterns attract magical fireflies ~
A Guide to Attracting Fireflies during an Evening Walk
My daughter and I enjoyed a lovely evening at the end of last July at Tower Hill Botanic Garden. At the beginning of the workshop, a volunteer read a book about fireflies to the group of children gathered in the small art room. They learned about the anatomy and habits of fireflies.
After listening to the story, the children were given the opportunity to make a small lantern to attract fireflies. Groups of children gathered in chairs set around tables to complete their craft. Volunteers provided the supplies and parents lent extra hands when they were needed.
- Firefly or Lightning Bug Printout - Enchanted Learning Software
Firefly or Lightning Bug Printout. The Pyralis firefly is a common firefly in North America.
Facts about Fireflies
Type of Beetle
Contain a chemical that causes bioluminesence
Prefer the cool air and subdued light of dusk
Attracted to other sources of flickering light
Easier to see at dusk/early evening
Possess two wings for flying
Move around trees and shrubs at the edge of woods
Less trees means less fireflies
Ready to Create
The children were instructed to take a seat at a round table and were given supplies to make their own small lanterns to attract fireflies. Fireflies usually begin their flight at dusk and congregate around lights that look like them. The lantern can be created from a variety of household objects and the process for creating one is described below.
Supplies for this Project:
Plastic yogurt cup
Green tempera paint (and brush)
Washcloth or hand towel
A nail and a medium rock
Manual hole punch
Fuzzy (thick) pipe cleaner
Small flickering tea light powered by lithium cell battery
Finished Firefly Lantern
A Plastic Cup in Transformation ~
Step 1: Paint a yogurt cup
The first step to making your own firefly lantern is painting a plastic yogurt container a dark shade of green. You may need to apply two coats of paint.
Fireflies love to fly in woodsy areas, so they are attracted to lush leafy-green colors. Painting your lantern green will attract more fireflies because the combination of the color and the flickering tea light will capture their attention and make them think that you are one of them.
A yogurt cup with a rim would be easier to punch a hole in, but it is not necessary.
A Cup of Ice ~
Step 2: Freeze It
When the paint on your yogurt cup has dried, fill the cup with water and freeze it. The ice will add a strong layer of support inside the cup, which will help prevent it from cracking when you begin tapping holes into it. (Step 3)
Make sure the water is frozen solid so that it will stand up to the force of the nail when you pound it with your rock, and so that it lasts until after you are finished creating your pattern before it turns into a puddle.This step may take at least an hour or two. It will give you some time to take a break to play outside.
Illustrations for Step 3
Step 3: Chisel Lantern Holes
This step requires a little preparation for completing effectively. You will want to gather the following supplies before you sit down to begin your work.
Supplies for this step:
wash cloth or hand towel
1. Lay the plastic cup down sideways on the wash cloth or hand towel. The ice in the cup will melt during this process and the cloth will absorb the moisture.
2. Bang the nail into the cup with the rock to make holes at various spots all over the cup. These are the holes through which your candlelight will glow to attract fireflies. This step is a golden opportunity for you to be creative. Chisel a pattern of spots such as a constellation, an animal face, the form of a firefly or a fairy. Your imagination is your guide.
3. When you are done making those holes, punch holes at the rim on 2 opposite sides of the cup with a manual hole punch. If your cup does not have a rim, punch 2 holes at the top of your cup with the nail and rock.
4. Remove the ice from the cup onto the cloth or towel.
Step 4: Let Your Light Shine
When the ice is finally out of the cup and the inside of the cup is dried gently with the cloth or towel, it is time to place your light in the lantern. For the sake of safety, it is best to use a plastic tea light that is powered by a lithium cell battery. Make sure you have one that flickers like a real candle flame, which is important to your attracting fireflies.
Turn on the candle and gently slip the candle into the cup. You will see your lantern light up and the pattern you created will come to life. Look at your lantern glow from a variety of angles. It's magical!
Flickering Lantern Candle
Step 5: Attach the Handle
The final step is making the handle for your firefly lantern. Take your pipe cleaner and place each end through the holes you punched in the rim of the lantern. Twist the ends so that they hold tight around each hole.
Now you are ready to walk out your door and search for fireflies in your backyard, or a local botanical garden.
Using the handle, hold your flickering lantern out as far as your arm can stretch. Stand still and be patient. You will begin to see the small flickering lights of fireflies among the trees and shrubs.
Places to Spy Fireflies
- Tower Hill Botanic Garden :: Home
Tower Hill is a living museum with a wide variety of plant species and landscaping that inspires the imagination. Members are treated to many relaxing moments & family-friendly programming.
- Firefly & Lightning Bug Facts, Pictures, Information About Firefly Insect Disappearance
Fireflies are disappearing! Find out why on Firefly.org. Information on fireflies & lightning bugs including reasons on their decline, plus firefly pictures, facts, and how to catch them.
Step 6: Take a Walk
Now you are ready to take an evening walk to a wooded area to see the fireflies dance at dusk.
Walk to the edge of a wooded parcel of land and hold your glowing lantern toward the trees. If you are patient, the lightning bugs will reward you with a magical fairy light show.
We walked with the group who gathered at Tower Hill Botanic Garden to watch the sun set over Wachusett Mountain. Once the sun was low enough and dusk began to descend over the landscape, we walked over to a field that was surrounded by bushes and trees.
As darkness fell upon the path, my daughter lit her lantern, along with the other children in attendance. They all held their lanterns out to coax the Tower Hill lightning bugs for a visit. Hearing all of the "oohs" and "ahs" was exciting. The adults of the group could not help but be enchanted, too.
Take a Firefly Walk at Sunset
Have you ever seen fireflies?
When was the last time you've seen a firefly in nature?See results without voting
A wonderful place to visit with the family in every season.
© 2014 Karen Szklany Gault
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