Stars on Earth – Fireflies in Dongshi Forest Park
By Priya L. Purswaney, Special to The China Post May 4, 2009, 9:33 am TWN
Does the name "Stars on Earth" sound familiar? That's because a Bollywood movie by that name was recently released in Taiwan, but here, we refer to a different kind of star – the firefly. Unlike many of us who have had the chance to see lots of fireflies in our childhood days, children these days do not get to see that beautiful sight. The reason for this is that fireflies are very sensitive to the environment. They need to be protected from light and other kinds of pollution.
One great place to see these miracles of nature is the Dongshi Forest Park (東勢花園林場) in Taichung (台中) County. The firefly season has kicked off here with tens of thousands of tiny bright lights sparkling in the dark night, and the numbers are increasing by the day. Thousands of visitors come here to see these amazing insects.
There are about 55 species of fireflies in Taiwan, of which 9 species have been spotted in Dongshi. While different species can be found here at different times of the year, the best time to come and see fireflies is from early April until mid-May. This is the peak season for the black-winged firefly (Luciola cerata Olivier), the species most common in Taiwan. Other firefly-watching periods for different species fall in July and November every year.
Fireflies, also called lightning bugs, are actually beetles that are capable of producing a cold light which is emitted from their lower abdomens. The chemical process involved in producing the light is very efficient, with no loss of energy in the form of heat. We can differentiate between males and females by the size of the eyes and the number of light-emitting sections on their lower abdomen.
The flashing lights are part of the courtship ritual, with different species and genders flashing at different frequencies and durations. The peak of the courtship period, and so the time when you can see the most lights, is usually from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
The fireflies thrive in unpolluted places with lush greenery, abundant water sources and humid air. The stages of the lifecycle are egg, larvae, pupa and adult, the adult stage being the shortest (about 2 weeks). Some firefly larvae emit light, too, and are therefore called glowworms. They feed on small snails and worms.
Dongshi Forest Park has 4 firefly-watching trails where visitors can stroll and enjoy the sight of the dancing stars on the gentle mountain slopes. The park also offers 2 guided tours around the trails, at 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. every night. While taking visitors on the trek, the guide explains the lifecycle, habitat and behavior of these unique beetles. Other recreational facilities at the park include a giant chair pulley and a grass sled slope.
For visitors who want to do a one-day trip, a special ticket is offered during this season. If you enter the park after 3:00 p.m., the entrance fee is NT$125 per person. If you plan to spend the night at Dongshi, there is a special Internet rate of NT$2999 for 2 people, including a cabin room with 2 large beds, entrance tickets, parking, spa, breakfast, afternoon tea and a tea coupon.
For an extra NT$1000, the package can be upgraded to 4 people. Packages are limited, so book early. For more details about other packages (spa, consumer vouchers, etc.), please visit the Web site http://tsfa.emmm.tw or call (04) 2587-2191*8 or email firstname.lastname@example.org