Energy + Environment

Researchers Explain And Prove Why Many Flying Insects Gather At Artificial Lights

A group of researchers with leaders from the Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London, solved a mystery of why flying insects collect around artificial lights, whether fires, candles, or various technology electric lamps. Old, unproven ideas include theories of “lunar navigation” and “escape to the light”. These researchers conducted high-resolution motion capture in the laboratory and stereo-videography in the field to reconstruct the 3D kinematics of insect flights around artificial lights. Contrary to the expectation of attraction, insects do not steer directly toward the light. Instead, insects turn their backs to the light, with the evolutionary expectation that light is “up” and relative darkness is “down.” This evolutionary method for determining up and down works extremely well in the wilderness where the sky is almost always brighter than the ground, during the day or night. Unfortunately, artificial light confuses many flying insects into turning their backs to the artificial light, resulting often in orbits around the light, effectively trapping the insects around artificial lights. The researchers found that as many insects pass by the artificial light, they literally flip over to keep their backs to the light, at the moment the light begins to not be at their backs. The complete research article is published here.

 

A group of researchers with leaders from the Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London, solved the mystery of why flying insects collect around artificial lights, whether fires, candles, or various technology electric lamps. Old, unproven ideas include theories of “lunar navigation” and “escape to the light.”

These researchers conducted high-resolution motion capture in the laboratory and stereo-videography in the field to reconstruct the 3D kinematics of insect flights around artificial lights. Contrary to the expectation of attraction, insects do not steer directly toward the light. Instead, insects turn their backs to the light, with the evolutionary expectation that light is “up” and relative darkness is “down.” This evolutionary method for determining up and down works extremely well in the wilderness, where the sky is almost always brighter than the ground during the day or night. Unfortunately, artificial light confuses many flying insects into turning their backs to the artificial light, often resulting in orbits around the light, effectively trapping the insects around artificial lights.

The researchers found that as many insects pass by the artificial light, they literally flip over to keep their backs to the light, at the moment the light begins to not be at their backs.

The complete research article is published here.

 

All Images: Nature.com. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-024-44785-3

 

 

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David Shiller
David Shiller is the Publisher of LightNOW, and President of Lighting Solution Development, a North American consulting firm providing business development services to advanced lighting manufacturers. The ALA awarded David the Pillar of the Industry Award. David has co-chaired ALA’s Engineering Committee since 2010. David established MaxLite’s OEM component sales into a multi-million dollar division. He invented GU24 lamps while leading ENERGY STAR lighting programs for the US EPA. David has been published in leading lighting publications, including LD+A, enLIGHTenment Magazine, LEDs Magazine, and more.

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