Bugs and lights, what's the attraction?
Name: doug moe
My kids want to know why insects are attracted to lights, that is,
why do they fly towards lights all of the time. Even after getting
burned by the light, they still keep on doing it.
The following is from "It's Raining Frogs and Fishes" by Jerry Dennis.
"There seems little reason a moth should be distracted from its
business of sipping nectar and avoiding predators by something as
dangerous as an artificial light. Yet, porch lamps and streetlights
are irresistible beacons to moths. Moths circle the light as if mes-
merized, in frenzied, dizzy orbits. Once caught in their blind orbits,
moths become easy prey for bats and nighthawks, or they batter
themselves to death, or singe their wings to uselessness on hot
surfaces, or die of exhaustion. And nobody knows why."
Although nobody knows why, here are a couple of theories (also from
the abovementioned book):
Moths may be naturally attracted to a bright moon, causing them
to fly higher and helping to disperse the species over a wider range.
If this is the case, then moths may be mistaking artificial lights for
Another similar idea is that moths navigate by the moon or the
stars. Thus a moth trying to go in a straight line could do so
by keeping the moon always to the same side. This navigation method
would fail for artificial lights, possibly causing the moths to
endlessly circle the light source.
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Update: June 2012