Things That Matter

This Firefly Forest Is A One Of A Kind Destination And It’s Just Outside Mexico City

Have you ever travelled somewhere on the advice of someone else? No advertising, no nothing – just the idea of a great experience? Well, the little town of Nanacamilpa in Mexico has had so many tourists stop by, it’s stoppedadvertising its main tourist draw to try to slow the flow of people into the hamlet. And, do you know why there are so many people coming to Nanacamilpa? Fireflies.

There’s more to this story than just bugs.

Instagram / @mexicotravelchannel

What Nanacamilpa promises is more than just seeing some insects in action. Well okay, actually, that’s exactly what it promises. Past the farmland that borders Nanacamilpa is a blanket of forest – and that’s where the fireflies can be found. It’s hard using just words to bring justice to the event that is firefly viewing. But suffice to say that if it’s the middle of the night, and all you’ve got for light is the night sky above you, seeing these tiny critters seemingly suspended and glowing all around you is an otherworldly experience.

If you plan on visiting the fireflies, you’ll need to follow a few important rules.

Instagram / @axlrz

Generally speaking, there is an etiquette for viewing fireflies. No talking, and no use of lights. That’s right, you’re not to use your phone while you’re out chilling with the fireflies: no taking selfies for the clout. Whether visitors obey these rules is another story – they’re only really enforced by requests from the local tour guides that take groups out to see the fireflies. And while, for the moment, the presence of people haven’t seemed to bother the fireflies too much, it remains to be seen what the long term impacts of this environmental tourism will have on the Nanacamilpa firefly population. 

Where the locals are concerned, the fireflies have had quite a positive impact on the community.

Instagram / @mexicosorprendente

If you were to visit Nanacamilpa just five years ago, you would have found the place pretty much empty. The only people in the area would have been locals. Nowadays, roughly 100,000 tourists visit between mid-June to mid-August to catch a glimpse of the area’s friendly fireflies, which has served as a windfall for what was previously a chronically poor region. In just 2013 alone, 51,000 visitors came to Nanacamilpa. Two years later, that number jumped to 77,000 – and most visitors were coming through the July-August period.

Firefly tourism has completely changed the lives of nearby residents forever.

Instagram / @fido.travel

In fact, for a while there, the locals struggled to keep up with the influx of travelers. 2013 saw food shortages in the Nanacamilpa restaurants, and any accommodation in the area had been completely booked out. This was fixed pretty quickly, though – hotels began appearing around town, and even in the forest. And, registered tour operators burgeoned from the four existing in 2012 to 33 in 2019. Which is just as well – last year saw 91,000 visitors to the fireflies! They’ve now become the state’s second most important draw, behind cultural tourism. Needless to say, business is booming, and firefly tourism has changed the lives of Nanacamilpa locals for the better.

But, there is a downside to this influx of tourists. 

Instagram / @solracmarban

It’s never so cut and dry with these kinds of things. As much as it’s great that Nanacamilpa is seeing money come its way, environmental scientists have expressed concerns about the impact visitors might have on the fireflies. However, there’s so much that’s unknown about the fireflies, that it’s hard to make any concrete judgments about what’s best for the little glowing bugs. It’s yet to even be determined what kind of impact light and chemical pollution has on the fireflies – or if they have an effect on them, at all.

Sadly, with so many visitors, the firefly population is under threat.

Instagram / @enmodoavionmx

That being said, there is a major threat to the Nanacamilpa firefly population that everyone should know about: the female fireflies … can’t fly. We know – it’s in the name, firefly. Anyway, obviously both females and males are needed for the fireflies to continue populating the region with their glowing butts. The risk in the females being unable to fly is that it’s a lot easier for unsuspecting visitors to accidentally step on the tiny fireflies. Even worse – without the ability to fly, they don’t have the capacity to easily escape from harm.

It’s not all bad news, though. Firefly tourism has become important in other countries, such as Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and Malaysia. It’s entirely possible that, even though different variations of fireflies live there, they may have developed their own model for balancing conservation with tourism. Let’s just hope that something more substantial can be implemented in Nanacamilpa to protect the fireflies, before it’s too late.

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