Central Pennsylvania Conservancy

June 2024 Newsletter

A lovely scene along the Letort, with Carex stipata (Awlfruit sedge) and Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) stealing the show.

Summer is just about here! While it officially starts on June 20th, the longest day of the year, it seems that with fireflies dancing around and strawberries being ripe that we have already reached that point.

In May, we hosted two guided walks at our preserves in honor of PA Native Species Day, connected local gardening enthusiasts with resources and native plants at the Cumberland County Master Gardener Plant Fest, and we welcomed a local group of adults with disabilities at the Letort Spring Garden Preserve where they will spend the summer learning conservation-related skills. Our staff continue to work diligently to steward our public preserves, as well as protect hundreds of new acres of local land through our conservation easement program. There are some fun events coming up for the month of June that we hope you'll join us for!

Special Feature: All About Fireflies

Fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, are a group of winged beetles known for their bioluminescent abilities. They belong to the family Lampyridae, which includes over 2,000 species, 150 of which are native to North America. Did you know our state insect is the Pennsylvania Firefly (Photuris pensylvanica)?

Here are some key characteristics and interesting facts about fireflies:

Physical Characteristics

  • Bioluminescence: Fireflies produce light through a chemical reaction in specialized cells called photocytes, located in their lower abdomen. This light is typically yellow, green, or pale red.
  • Body Structure: Like other beetles, fireflies have a hard exoskeleton, six legs, and two pairs of wings, with the outer pair serving as protective covers for the inner, membranous wings used for flight.
  • Size: Fireflies vary in size, but most species are between 5 and 25 millimeters long.

Life Cycle

  • Egg: Female fireflies lay eggs in the soil or on vegetation. Some species' eggs can emit a faint glow.
  • Larva: Firefly larvae, often called glowworms, are also bioluminescent. They live in the soil or under debris, feeding on small insects, snails, and slugs.
  • Pupa: After several months to a few years as larvae, fireflies pupate in the soil.
  • Adult: Adult fireflies emerge from the pupal stage and typically live for a few weeks to a few months, depending on the species.

Behavior and Ecology

  • Mating Signals: The primary purpose of bioluminescence in adult fireflies is to attract mates. Each species has a unique light pattern that males and females use to communicate.
  • Diet: Adult fireflies of some species do not eat, while others may feed on nectar, pollen, or other insects.
  • Habitat: Fireflies are commonly found in warm, humid environments, including meadows, forests, marshes, and gardens. They prefer areas with abundant moisture and vegetation.


  • Ecosystem Role: Firefly larvae help control pest populations by preying on other small invertebrates.
  • Cultural Impact: Fireflies are celebrated in many cultures for their enchanting light displays and have been subjects of art, literature, and folklore.


  • Habitat Loss: Urbanization, deforestation, and agricultural development reduce firefly habitats.
  • Light Pollution: Artificial lights interfere with fireflies' mating signals.
  • Pesticides: Chemical use in agriculture and gardening can harm fireflies and their prey.
  • Climate Change: Changes in weather patterns and temperatures can affect firefly populations.
  • Changes in land use: Draining wetlands, regular mowing of lawns, and the removal of leaf litter all harm fireflies.
  • Commercial collection: In some regions, fireflies are collected in large numbers for commercial purposes, such as in traditional medicine or for their bioluminescent chemicals.

There are numerous ways that we can all help to protect fireflies, including...

  • Preserving natural habitats
  • Reducing light pollution: Fireflies use bioluminescence to communicate and find mates. Artificial lights can disrupt these signals. Use outdoor lights only when necessary and opt for dim, warm-colored lights. Turn off unnecessary lights and keep your blinds closed if you have lights on inside at night during their summer mating season.
  • Limiting pesticide use: Pesticides can harm fireflies and their larvae. Opt for organic integrated pest management strategies whenever possible, and if herbicide use is required, ensure it is carefully and thoughtfully applied.
  • Raising public awareness about the importance of these fascinating insects, the threats they face, and how we can help them. Share information with your community, and consider participating in a citizen science project like Firefly Watch.
  • Creating firefly friendly gardens by planting native trees and shrubs, especially long grasses and low shrubs, to provide shelter and food, or even create a small water feature to attract them. Consider designated "no-mow" zones in your yard
  • Encouraging policy changes by supporting environmental legislation that protects habitat and reduces pollution.
  • Supporting or volunteering with organizations (like us!) who are dedicated to preserving habitat and the wildlife that depend on it.

By understanding and protecting fireflies, as well as implementing thoughtful practices to support their populations, we can ensure their survival and continue to enjoy their magical presence in our environment for generations to come.

Join us for our monthly earthcare day at the Letort Preserve every 2nd Saturday of the month; the next one is this Saturday, June 8th and the whole family is welcome.

Some of the things we do as a group including planting native species, removing invasive species, creating wildlife habitat, learning about our environment, collecting and spreading native seeds, "urban archaeology" and litter cleanups, and lots more!

We love hosting local organizations for earth care at the Preserve;

email Land Steward Jesse Price for more information.

Click here to join us for nourishing community earthcare!

Upcoming Events

Enriching fun for the whole family!

RSVP by emailing your name, how many people will be in your group, and which events you'd like to attend to info@centralpaconservancy.org. You may also RSVP on our website on each event's individual page. RSVP is not required, but helps us with proper planning for the event.

June 6

2024 Members Picnic

5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

South Middleton Township Park, 534 Park Drive, Boiling Springs, PA 17007

Mark your calendars for our 2024 Member's Picnic! We want to celebrate you - the people that make our mission possible. If you're a CPC member (donor) and didn't receive an invitation, we still have space and would love for you to join us for a conservation community barbecue.

If you're unsure if you're a member of CPC or not, you can respond to this email and we can let you know your status, and if you're not already a member, we'd love for you to join us!

June 8

Community Volunteer Day at the Letort Spring Garden Preserve

9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

1110 S. Spring Garden Road, Carlisle, PA 17013

Join Central Pennsylvania Conservancy staff the 2nd Saturday of each month for our community volunteer days as we steward the Letort Spring Garden Preserve. The work varies by season and typically includes habitat stewardship (removing invasive species and planting natives), trail maintenance, and other projects. We also work with local businesses and organizations to host volunteer work days – let us know if your business is interested in setting up a session.

June 15

5B's Pollinator & Garden Fair

9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

570 N. River Rd/Rt. 147, Halifax, PA 17032

If you are interested in learning about how to establish pollinator friendly yards and wildlife habitats with native plants that support our struggling native wildlife – this event is for you! Join us and other community organizations at Fort Halifax Park, a public park & CPC conservation easement. This event is hosted by the Friends of Fort Halifax, a citizen advocacy group that works to care for the historic Fort Halifax property.

June 18

Weekday Trail Care hosted by Keystone Trail Alliance

at the Letort Spring Garden Preserve

9:00 AM to ? PM

1110 S. Spring Garden St., Carlisle, PA 17013

Keystone Trails Association is again partnering with us to host Trail Care days throughout the summer! You're invited to join the fun at our Letort Spring Garden Preserve on Tuesday, June 18th. There will also be an event in July, and another in August that we'll keep you in the loop about. These events suit individuals of all experience levels, whether you're new to trail maintenance or a seasoned veteran. Activities will include maintaining existing trails and constructing two new accessible trails. Tasks may involve using loppers, pruners, and handsaws to trim vegetation and rake, dig, and grade new trail paths. Keystone Trails Association's 2024 Weekday Trail Care is generously supported by the Mechanicsburg - North Rotary Club.


June 21

Solstice Celebration at the Letort Spring Garden Preserve

6:00 PM to 9:00 PM

1110 S. Spring Garden Rd., Carlisle, PA 17013

Switch it all off, go outside, and join us for a Solstice Celebration at the Letort Spring Garden Preserve from 6 to 9 pm on Friday, June 21st! 

Rachel Campbell of Flourishing Pathways will be leading us through a guided somatic practice for centering and grounding, the creation of meditative natural mandalas, an evening firepit, refreshments, and fellowship.

This gathering is open to the whole family and is only $15 per person, with a portion of the proceeds going toward conservation projects at the Letort Spring Garden Preserve. We hope to see you there!

June 22

Native Plant Sale with the Wilderness Greenhouse at Diakon

9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

571 Mountain Road, Boiling Springs, PA 17007

Beautify your yard with native plants and support Central Pennsylvania Conservancy. Thanks to The Wilderness Greenhouse at Diakon, this plant sale with provide a portion of proceeds to the Conservancy!

We also have volunteer opportunities at The Wilderness Greenhouse to prepare for the event. If you’re interested in participating, contact us at info@centralpaconservancy.org. Be sure to check the directions to the greenhouse at this link here before heading out, as GPS instructions will take you down some rough roads that it's best to avoid.

It might not seem like it, but we are at a critical point to protect and preserve land throughout our bioregion. The pace of development around here shows no signs of slowing down, and unfortunately it is at the expense of the biodiversity and habitat that make where we call home what it is. The environmental changes that result when we do not protect and preserve land have long-term impacts on human health, contribute to climate change, and upset the balance that makes ecosystems stable, and therefore make it possible for humanity to exist.

If you are concerned about the displacement and extinction of wildlife, disruption of natural water cycles, increased soil erosion and reduced fertility, air and water pollution, and the cumulative detrimental effects to our health and our collective future, please consider a donation to support our work. No matter what you can give, it is your support that transforms a vision for a healthy planet and future for all beings and makes it a reality.

Thank you for being a catalyst to a resilient, healthy future in our bioregion!

Click here to support our conservation mission!

Runners and volunteers gathering for opening remarks at last year's race

Our biggest fundraiser of the year, the Ironmaster's Challenge, is entering its 15th year this fall! One thing is for certain that we can't pull it off without the dedicated support of volunteers. Whether you're passionate about running, conservation, connection, the woods, or any combination of those things, we'd love to have you as part of our crew. Sign up to volunteer at https://runsignup.com/Race/Volunteer/PA/Gardners/IronmastersChallenge

If you're a runner, now is the time to sign up for Earlybird prices (and start training if you haven't already!), which end on June 16th. Runners sign up on the main page here https://runsignup.com/Race/PA/Gardners/IronmastersChallenge

Sign up to volunteer
Sign up to run

This extraordinary plant, Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense), can be found throughout the northern hemisphere, typically in savannas, prairies, roadsides, arable land, ditches and disturbed areas. It is partial to damp soils like the old watercress beds at our Letort Spring Garden Preserve, which is where we took this photograph and have large patches of it. It is part of one of the oldest plant families still in existence, and actually first appeared during the Carboniferous period when what we now know as Pennsylvania was forming! You can even find ancient fossils in the state from massive, tree-sized members of the Equisetum genus. Modern members of the genus still reproduce the exact same way as millions of years ago, through spores rather than seeds. However, these also spread through rhizomes and for that reason have been known to become "weedy" in cultivated spaces. This plant is full of silica, and for that reason it has historically has been used by humans as a scrubbing agent! Can you imagine washing your dishes with this plant?

As always, our deepest gratitude for staying in touch with us and making our work in south-central Pennsylvania possible!


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