bugs to light


We all have seen that bugs are even worse at night when the street lamps come on or the front porch light. So why are bugs attracted to light?

Unfortunately, scientists haven’t been able to pin down one simple explanation for this behavior in moths, flies, and many other insects. They have, however, developed several theories that might provide some insight into why certain insects seem to be attracted to lights.

There is a phenomenon called phototaxis that explains how organisms respond to light with motion. Some entomologists believe moths zoom toward unnatural light sources because the lights throw off their internal navigation systems. Moths didn’t evolve around bright lights, after all; they evolved at a time when all the light on Earth came solely from the distant sun, moon, and stars.

But around man-made lights, such as a campfire, your porch light or street lights, the angle to the light source changes as a moth flies by and this becomes confusing to them. “The thinking is that they become dazzled by the light and are somehow attracted,” said Jerry Powell, an entomologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in moths.

“It’s kind of complicated, but bugs need a little bit of light in order to navigate. They need fixed light points,” said Mike McLean of the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District. For some, a bright light source is seen as an emergency beacon, and when in doubt, they will instinctively head for the light, which is generally higher than their current danger-filled position.  However some insects, like cockroaches, are negatively phototactic and they will scurry away when the light comes on.

Another possibility is that when a bug sees an unobstructed light source indicates that the pathway is clear, therefore the insects fly directly towards it in an attempt to avoid obstacles. This could explain why some insects seem to fly directly right into light bulbs.

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