Why Are Insects Drawn to Artificial Lights?🪰

3 min read

Morning Moths!

I’m sure you have seen this before:

Insects flocking around some kind of artificial light.

Apparently, this strange phenomenon was even mentioned in some of the earliest writing in the Roman empire.

So, they’ve been doing this for quite some time.

But why do they do it?

Well, technically, insects are not attracted to light at all…

Let me explain.

So, very recently, a group of scientist guys tried to figure out exactly what was going on here. And they had a bunch of initial theories, like:

This turned out to be false.

Nope, also false.

When have you ever seen bugs flying towards the Moon?

Also false.

So, they tested it with these special LEDs that emit almost no heat.

(nothing an insect can detect anyway.)

And… the bugs were still attracted to it.

But then, after conducting a very clever experiment, they figured it all out.

And the actual answer is much more depressing than I would like.

So, here's how they did it.

The scientists set up a lamp in a dark room for bugs to fly around.

They then used an ultra slow-mo camera to record what was going on in much more detail.

This is where they discovered that none of the insects were actually aiming at the light at all.

They were just kinda flying around the light, changing their directions unconsciously.

They determined this was something called Dorsal Light Response.

Basically, insects automatically orienting themselves to have their back facing towards the source of light.

And for most of history, there's only been 2 main sources of light, the sun and the moon.

This instinct very likely evolved to help insects determine where up and down was.

But then, in the past few thousand years, insects discovered that the sun and moon aren’t the only light sources.

Like this hanging light, for example:

So, their ancient instinct kicks in, forcing them to reorient their backs towards the light.

As a result, it appears as if they are orbiting the light source, but to them, they are trying to fly in a straight line.

So they keep flying around and around in a perpetual orbiting hell with no idea what's going on.

The only escape being a fluke gust of wind, the light turning off or the sun coming back out again.

Yeah…told you it was a bit depressing.

Stay Cute,
Reece, Henry & Dylan 🌈

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