How to Make a Small Lantern to Attract Fireflies at Night

Small hand-made lanterns attract magical fireflies ~

Finished lantern ready to attract fireflies out in the garden
Finished lantern ready to attract fireflies out in the garden | Source

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. A volunteer read a book about fireflies to the group of children gathered in the small art room. After listening to the story, the children were given the opportunity to make a small lantern to attract 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

Firefly lantern at dusk on a stone bench in Tower Hill Botanical Garden
Firefly lantern at dusk on a stone bench in Tower Hill Botanical Garden | Source

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 Plastic Cup in Transformation ~

Fireflies love the cool green leaves of bushes, plants, and trees at dusk.
Fireflies love the cool green leaves of bushes, plants, and trees at dusk. | Source

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.

A Cup of Ice ~

A firefly lantern cup filled with ice in a freezer
A firefly lantern cup filled with ice in a freezer | Source

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

nail

small rock

Procedure:

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.

Illustrations for Step 3

Children chiseling holes in their lanterns with a nail and a rock
Children chiseling holes in their lanterns with a nail and a rock | Source
Emptying the ice from the cup
Emptying the ice from the cup | Source
The pattern of holes made by my daughter for her flickering light to glow through.
The pattern of holes made by my daughter for her flickering light to glow through. | Source

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

View from the top
View from the top | Source

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.

Final Touch

Twist the pipe cleaner to secure it around each hole at the top of your lantern..
Twist the pipe cleaner to secure it around each hole at the top of your lantern.. | Source

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

Sunset over Wachuset Mtn, taken from Tower Hill Botanical Garden
Sunset over Wachuset Mtn, taken from Tower Hill Botanical Garden | Source
My daughter's firefly lantern at dusk.
My daughter's firefly lantern at dusk. | Source

Facts about Fireflies

Type of Beetle
Nocturnal
Endangered
Contain a chemical that causes bioluminesence
Prefer the cool air and subdued light of dusk
Light pollution
Attracted to other sources of flickering light
Easier to see at dusk/early evening
Habitat diminished
Possess two wings for flying
Move around trees and shrubs at the edge of woods
Less trees means less fireflies
Summary of the properties of Fireflies/Lightning bugs and their habitat

Have you ever seen fireflies?

When was the last time you've seen a firefly in nature?

  • When I was a child
  • Very recently
  • Both when I was a child and recently
See results without voting
A markerTower Hill Botanic Garden -
11 French Drive, Boylston, MA 01505, USA
[get directions]

A wonderful place to visit with the family in every season.

© 2014 Karen Szklany Gault

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Comments 12 comments

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

A great hub with easy to follow instructions. Voted up and across.

Eddy.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 2 years ago from New England Author

Thank you, Eddy. I hope you have a chance to try it sometime soon with your grandchildren. Have fun! Also hope this summer finds you with time to relax. I see you've been a prolific poet. I'm looking forward to visiting your hubs sometime soon.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Very cool idea, but only one problem: we don't have fireflies here. :)


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Excellent and very fun.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 2 years ago from New England Author

Awww. Sorry to hear that. Too high a latitude? Hope you can make it to a state at a more southern latitude to see some one day. ~:0) Thank you for stopping by and reading, Bill. ~:0)


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 2 years ago from New England Author

Thank you, Eric. ~:0) Hope this summer finds you well.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 14 months ago from Maryland

Love this project, especially the end result: attracting more fireflies! We called then lightening bugs when I was a kid. Voted up & awesome. --Jill


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 14 months ago from New England Author

Thank you Dirt Farmer! We called them "lightning bugs" too. Glad you found this how-to project hub useful. Hope you enjoy many great moments of firefly fun with friends and family!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 14 months ago from the short journey

Hadn't though of attracting them, but of course! Thanks for the tutorial and sharing the fun you had with your daughter. :)


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 14 months ago from New England Author

Thank you so much for stopping by and reading, RTalloni! So glad you liked reading this hub. Hope you have a chance to make the lantern and that it attracts lots of fireflies to enjoy. ~:0)


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 14 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

How cool! I've always loved fireflies. I wish I had known this as a kid.


Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 13 months ago from New England Author

If you have any children in your life now, you can make one with them and attract fireflies with them. They are fun for kids of all ages. Thank you for stopping by!

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