Why do insects feel attracted to light?

Why are insects attracted to light?

They buzz around glowing street lamps or the burning floor lamp in the living room: insects are magically attracted to artificial light sources, but often lose their lives in the process. So for what reason do the little animals always fly to the light?

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The phenomenon is most common in summer, when insects are particularly widespread: a cluster of insects quickly forms around a lit lamp at night. Why this is so has not yet been fully clarified.

Loss of orientation as the cause

One theory is the most widespread: Researchers assume that nocturnal insects orient themselves when flying straight ahead on the moon, the brightest point in their environment. On their trajectory, they try to keep a certain angle to the light source.

Since artificial light now illuminates the sky even in rural regions, insects lose their bearings: They mistake street lights or lamps in homes and gardens for the moon and head towards them.

The orientation aid light becomes a problem. Insects use the same method. However, since a lamp is much closer to the insect than the moon, the angle of flight changes faster when circling and you inevitably get closer and closer to the lamp. At some point they either fall exhausted to the ground or burn on the artificial light source.

UV component plays a role

Insect eyes are more sensitive than human eyes. This is why they perceive white light with a high proportion of blue and ultraviolet light, as is often used for street lamps, to be much brighter - and are automatically drawn to it.

They seem to be less sensitive to a yellow-reddish component in the light. With warm white LEDs that have no or only a small amount of UV, the insect attack is measurably reduced.

Insect-friendly lighting

The choice of light therefore has a great influence on the attraction of nocturnal insects. If you want to protect flies, moths and other small animals from nocturnal wanderings and possible death, you should use LED lamps without UV in the yellow-red color spectrum for garden lighting.

Lights for paths and entrances can be equipped with a motion detector and should also not shine upwards. Pure decorative lights should be avoided for reasons of climate and environmental protection.

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