It's ghost season!
I've shared with you that fireflies are sacred to Mae's culture, but of all the species that live in the Silverwood Mountains, the blue ghost fireflies are among the most revered, and the ones that Mae misses most during her exile.
Blue ghosts are a real thing (Phausis reticulata), about as close to magic as we can get in our world. They don't flash or blink--- they glow a steady, moonlight-blue color, and they float a few inches off the ground, like a silent fairy slow-dance. They're found only in a small region of southern Appalachia. April and May are great times to look for them---if you live near Great Smoky Mountains National Park or any one of the state or national forests in the area (Pisgah or DuPont especially), you can look for them yourself. I've also seen them along the Chattooga River and near Jones Gap State Park (SC). Ask a ranger if they know of good places to look. They like damp, dark places under the trees (the bugs, not the rangers), so close to creeks or rivers is a good bet.
But please! If you do find some, stay out of the area they're flying. The females don't fly, and trying to catch the males mean you can easily step on the females. (Mae is setting a bad example here. Stay on the path, Mae!) Keep light to a minimum; put red cellophane over your flashlight or headlamp to avoid disturbing them and killing your night vision.
Great Smokies also has an annual Firefly Festival that will be coming up later in the spring, which is a fantastic place to see the ghosts and another incredible species--- the synchronous fireflies. I'll be back in the ranger hat again, helping host the event, one of my favorite parts of working in the Smokies. Suffice to say, nature is awesome and magic is real!
Emily B. Martin
Author and Illustrator