Survey Safety

Firefly surveys may take place at night in isolated areas, which can present multiple safety concerns. Please follow these guidelines to reduce the risks and to ensure that you feel comfortable with managing the risks:

  • Survey in pairs or groups. 
  • Scout out the survey area ahead of time, and if possible let neighbors know that you will be doing surveys.
  • Let someone know your plans, including your location and expected return time.
  • Carry multiple flashlights and extra batteries.
  • Anticipate hazards such as venomous snakes, biting and stinging insects, alligators, harmful plants, and uneven terrain.
  • Monitor your own level of hydration, energy, and alertness. Factor in any driving that you will be doing post-survey.
  • Consider wearing a reflective vest to be visible to motorists and fellow surveyors, as well as to signal to bystanders that the survey is a sanctioned activity.
An empty stretch of road at sunset, bordered by open salt marsh.
Firefly survey sites will likely be dark and isolated. Taking precautions like surveying in groups and scoping out the site in the daylight will help keep you safe and comfortable.
A swampy wetland with fallen branches and patches of mud on the ground.
Wear boots to protect your feet, and move cautiously to avoid tripping hazards!

Landowner Permission

Whether you decide to survey for fireflies on public lands or private lands, you must have proper permission to be on the property and you should follow all site-specific rules, regulations, and posted signs. Permission should be explicit and preferably be in writing.

This is vital for your own safety, for the protection of sensitive natural resources, for compliance with laws and regulations, and for maintaining positive relationships with landowners and site managers.

As the Xerces Code of Conduct states, trespass on private property in any form or manner while participating in Firefly Atlas is prohibited, including, but not limited to, by entering lands under cultivation or enclosed by a fence, climbing fences, pushing through fences or hedges that define property boundaries or tampering with locks on gates, entering uncultivated or unenclosed lands by ignoring signs forbidding trespass, refusing to reasonably look for signs forbidding trespass or destroying signs forbidding trespass, or refusing to leave the property when told. If you are uncertain as to whether property is public or private, assume it is private, stay on the public roads adjoining the property when performing the activity, and DO NOT ENTER THE PROPERTY ITSELF WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE OWNER.

Two roadside signs reading "Public Launch" and "Cars, trucks or trailers left over a 48 hour period will be towed at owner's expense." The background is an expanse of marsh and a pink dusk sky.
Areas that are freely open to the public during the day may have restricted access after dark, and permits may be required to catch insects such as fireflies, so you should always check with land managers before conducting a firefly survey.


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This is a project of the Xerces Society, working in collaboration with the IUCN SSC Firefly Specialist Group and New Mexico BioPark Society.

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