Why Are Moths Attracted To Lights? -- The Real Answer

Anne Kilmer viceroy at gate.net
Fri Dec 31 09:47:59 EST 1999

Might you want to hear from the scientists before you start running in
circles announcing that the sky is falling? 
We have quite a few of them here, and they probably have observed moths
at lights. 
Mind you, I quite agree about the dark skies; had a wonderful starry sky
at St. Simon's. But one man's speculation or observation isn't science. 
Anne Kilmer
South Florida

"Stanley A. Gorodenski" wrote:
> Thanks for the message.  I belong to the International Dark Sky
> Association whose purpose is to preserve our dark skies for astronomical
> purposes and for our and our children's esthetic enjoyment by
> eliminating bad and unnecessary outdoor lighting.  This organization
> collects information on adverse biological effects of light pollution
> (light that goes up in the air and is otherwise wasted).  I will forward
> your message on the potentially adverse effect on moth egg laying cycles
> to this organization.
> Stan Gorodenski
> MyName wrote:
> >
> > I've been meaning to post this for about 10 years now, but for some reason I
> > always forget to share it on the newsgroups. I've told quite a few people but
> > have never posted this publicly, til now.
> >
> > I'd like to set the record straight. Moths do NOT travel towards lights for some
> > navigational purposes. Moths do NOT travel towards lights for some reproductive
> > or food source seeking purposes.  Tear out all those useless entries in your
> > science books. And for heaven's sake PLEASE stop teaching these WRONG answers to
> > any students or children you might know.
> >
> > Why do they travel towards lights? Simple (and only answer) -- They want to
> > sleep.  (Now _that_ is an answer I can relate to. :-)
> >
> > I used to attract moths to my screened window using a U.V. lamp so that I might
> > photograph them.  I would wait until they had settled down to a resting state,
> > then very carefully opened the screen, picked them up, brought them inside,
> > photographed them, then released them outdoors when done.  If I jostled them too
> > much they immediately started to shiver to raise their muscle temperatures to
> > ready them for flight. I would stop what I was doing, and wait for them to go
> > back into a sleep-state by holding them near a bright light then continue on
> > with my photography.
> >
> > Now you ask, why would they want to sleep? Simple answer: When they are in a
> > sleep cycle they are the most safe from predators.  I've noticed that this need
> > to remain camouflaged and still is even more powerful than their need to
> > reproduce.  Many (nearly all) species will even forgo finding appropriate food
> > plants to lay their eggs on. Instead they will lay their eggs right on my window
> > screen if I leave the U.V. light on for a period of days.  Content to stay
> > there, totally asleep, their eventual egg-laying cycle taking over while
> > sleeping.
> >
> > This finding of mine has some overwhelming consequences.  The main one: Light
> > pollution may be doing more harm than we ever thought possible. How many
> > species' (not only moths) mating and egg-laying cycles are being disrupted by
> > light pollution? Could this account for some of the decline in amphibians and
> > other insectivore species world-wide? You can take further possible consequences
> > from there. In order to save our ecosystems it might one day be a mandate to
> > turn off your outdoor lights at night.
> >
> > In any case, I have to lay to rest some of the outmoded and utterly ridiculous
> > myths of why moths go to lights. Hasn't anybody ever stopped to realise that a
> > moth travelling in a straight line by navigation using moon-light or star-light
> > (the usual old theory) would serve ZERO purpose to a moth?  Why would travelling
> > in a straight line afford them more food sources or the chance to find a mate?
> > That's just silly. There are no straight lines in nature. Their mates are not
> > lined up like bottles on a fence rail nor are their food supplies.
> >
> > (As with all my discoveries in life, I post this anonymously. The same as I did
> > on a local BBS back in 1980 with my answer to the "chicken vs. egg" koan.  Oh,
> > you've not heard that answer? Simple: The only place that mutation can take
> > place is in the egg.  Therefore, something "not quite a chicken" laid an egg.
> > That egg, by chance, now had the genetic code to be a "real chicken".  The "REAL
> > chicken" egg came first.)
> >
> > Too bad I don't have some academic-shingle sig to tack onto this post to make my
> > finding more acceptable to your linear minds. But I'm just a simple man, a
> > naturalist, watching nature my whole life and seeing how she behaves.  This is
> > just one more correct page in the book of "The Nature of Nature" that I have
> > come to know so well.
> >
> > We now return you back to your learned scientists and all the mistakes they have
> > made and taught you in school, lo these many years ...
> >
> > "What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free,
> > meandering brook."  --  Henry David Thoreau
> --
> If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't
> seem wonderful at all.  -- Michelangelo

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