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

Chris J. Durden drdn at mail.utexas.edu
Fri Dec 31 12:29:11 EST 1999

  I beg to differ. The essence of science is one person's speculation on
observation. This sounds like the seed of an idea worth testing.
  The bottom dropped out of moth collecting at lights here the same year
that bug zappers were heavily marketed and light collecting has never been
good here since.
........Chris Durden, Austin

At 09:47  31/12/99 -0500, you wrote:
>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
>> > 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
>> > 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
>> > 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
>> > 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
>> > 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
>> > (the usual old theory) would serve ZERO purpose to a moth?  Why would
>> > 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
>> > 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".
>> > 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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