Blue Ghost Hunting

Blue Ghost Fireflies Color Corrected

Wednesday night is ghost night in the Taylor-Wright household. That’s the night Laura’s favorite paranormal shows come on TV – Ghost Hunters, Haunted Collector, and the latest, Deep South Paranormal. This particular Wednesday, though, we had something different in mind. We were going ghost hunting ourselves. Specifically, we were going to see the Blue Ghost Fireflies, Phausis reticulata. We had the privilege of seeing the blue ghosts a couple of years ago. Turns out that was another Wednesday night when we would have been watching Ghost Hunters, too. That would not be the last coincidence on this particular trip.

Our friend Joyce McCarrell arranged the outing and sent us the invitation. We met with her and the others that were going at the Cafe at Williams Hardware. Our host for the evening was Ann Tankersly, and we would be following her up to her property near River Falls. In all, there were nine of us heading out to see the Blue Ghosts.

Blue Ghost Fireflies-001

The fireflies are finicky. They don’t like excessive light, and only come out at optimum temperatures and conditions. There are very few places where they can be found, and the foothills of South Carolina seem to be one of those. Last time it was late April when we went out. This year, mid-May.

As we approached our destination we were surprised to find that we were in the exact same spot that we had seen these previously. Having the owner of the property with us was a plus. A driveway led us to an old cabin where we would hang out until time to see the insects. We spent a few minutes exploring and getting the lay of the land while it was still light enough. Ann filled us in on some tales about the area.

Blue Ghost Fireflies-002
Blue Ghost Fireflies-006

This year I really wanted to capture these things on camera. I had better equipment – I brought my D7000 with a 50mm prime lens, and I had our new IR game camera. Also in the group was Blaine Owens, a professional photographer who was similarly equipped.

As the light dimmed we started to one, then several of the glowing bugs. As it got darker, the numbers increased. Once again, the view of the faint, mystical orbs lent an air of magic to the space. I took several long exposure shots with my camera on a tripod.

Blue Ghost Fireflies-007
Blue Ghost Fireflies-008

The best shot, though, was the one that appears at the top of this post. That image is color-corrected to show the blue of the insects, but the original photo had them green due to the long exposure. The squiggly lines are the flight paths of the insects during the 30 second exposure.

Blue Ghost Fireflies

I soon learned that the IR camera really isn’t the right piece of equipment. It did allow for good images in very dark settings.


Unfortunately, the infrared light countered the faint blue glow from the insects. When one does appear on video, it looks more like a moth, as in these short segments.

While I’m glad I got one decent image, the best course of action was just to put the cameras away and get caught up in the enchantment of the scenery. There is no real way to capture or describe the view. I’m glad we were able to see these again, and our sincere thanks to Joyce and Ann for putting this trip together for us.

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