How to: Homemade Outdoor Fireflies

How to: Homemade Outdoor Fireflies

If you've ever spent a warm summer night next to a wetland area, you've probably seen lampyridae. Their name might not ring a bell, but their tiny glowing bodies do. Lampyridae are fireflies, those belly-glowing beetles that seem to take people's breath away, especially when seen in multiples. In our second project from Lorene Edwards Forkner's book Handmade Garden Projects we're going to be making our own fireflies.

"Dazzle evening garden party guests with a fanciful flight of homemade fireflies. By day the informal cluster of shepherd’s crook–style hooks studded with craft magnets looks like a piece of metal garden art, echoing the rusty color of nearby plantings. But after dusk it’s pure magic. I position LED (light emitting diode) bulbs and lithium coin batteries at each magnet along the hooks and fireflies appear to float above grasses and groundcovers along the edge of my front walkway.

You can purchase the metal hooks at most garden centers. Shop around for a good price on 3V lithium coin batteries which are typically required for watches, keyless locks, and small electronics; you’ll save a bundle buying in bulk online or at discount electronics store. Any small craft magnet will do.

Order extra bright, white 10mm LED bulbs online; a package of fifty bulbs only set me back about twenty dollars, plus shipping. Diffused-lens bulbs cast light in every direction, while non-diffuse bulbs have a less-satisfying targeted beam. Each LED bulb has a life-span of several hundred hours; I’ve had bulbs that have lasted continuously for months needing only to have their battery replaced as the charge dims. Maintain the longest battery life by storing magnets separately from lithium coins to avoid prematurely draining their charge.


  • 36-inch metal shepherd’s crook–style garden hooks
  • 1/2-inch craft magnets
  • 3V CR2032 lithium coin batteries
  • Extra bright, diffused-lens, white 10mm LED bulbs


1. Set hooks in place. Arrange the hooks in the garden at staggering heights, into a suitably informal but pleasing cluster. Stick a small craft magnet at the tip of each hook, adding more magnets along the shaft if you want.

2. “Light” your fireflies. Slot a lithium coin battery between the terminals of a LED bulb placing the slightly longer terminal on the “+” side.

3. Place fireflies on hooks. Position one LED bulb and battery at each magnet, taking care to sandwich the wire terminal securely between the magnet and the battery to ensure that the bulb remains lit.


(A) No hooks? Attach your homemade fireflies to any garden surface that will hold a magnet like metal furniture, tools, or even hardware on a fence.

 (B) Kids—of all ages—love these. Scatter homemade fireflies around a darkened bedroom and scary monsters disappear.

 (C) Set the winter holidays aglow. Affix LED bulbs and batteries to wooden picks or florist wires with dark green tape and nestle into evergreen wreaths and garlands. Or discreetly weave a metal wire through mantle decorations and stud with fireflies for a magical ribbon of light without having to bother with hiding cords. A swag of fabric at the window becomes a galaxy of stars when you sandwich magnets on either side of the cloth and affix a homemade firefly to the outside magnet.

For more fun outdoor projects like this one, pick up a copy of Handmade Garden Projects from Timber Press at Amazon for about $14.


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Kathy in Texas on Aug 08, 2013:

Also love love this book. Picked it up at library but I have to buy it.

Kathy in Texas on Aug 08, 2013:

Best source to buy these supplies? I have Shepard hooks and lots of places to put them

Kathy Robertson on Aug 08, 2013:

Best place to buy these supplies? I have several hooks.

Laura on May 01, 2012:

LED Throwies posted an excellent link. Follow it to the you tube video, it's great! Thanks for all the help here!

DIY Maven on May 01, 2012:

@Krista--You'd probably put them up at dusk and then take them down when you go in for the night. Luckily, they're held together with magnets, so this would only take a minute or two.

Krista on May 01, 2012:

Do you leave these constantly on or do you go out every night and put them in place? 

LED THROWIES on May 01, 2012:

http://www.instructables.com/id/  LED-Throwies/ - take out the spaces

LED THROWIES on May 01, 2012:


Gives instructions with photos and resources for purchasing.

Anonymous on Apr 30, 2012:

Sure would like to see a close-up of the bulb/battery/magnet!

Anonymous on Apr 30, 2012:

OK, duh me!! Excellent visual description DIY maven, thank you!

DIY Maven on Apr 30, 2012:

@Laura, you slip the button battery between the terminals as instructed, and then use the magnets (which are stuck to the hooks) to sandwich the button between the terminals to keep the lights lit. Make sense?

Laura on Apr 30, 2012:

Ok, visual learner here. Couldn't picture what the LEDS would look like . I looked and found them plenty of places (even colors) but they all have little prongs. I can't wrap my brain around how a flat little battery and a pronged light attach. ?? What am I not getting right here? SOrry for the dumb queston but like I said "visual learner". Thanks CURBLY, I <3 you! 

Mel on Apr 26, 2012:

These firefly lights are such a fabulous idea! Thank you so much for sharing all of the clever details.

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