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Why Moths Are Attracted to Light? Effects of Light on Glowing Pheromones

by Abdul Manan
Published: Last Updated on
Why Are Moths Are Attracted to Light

Entomologists and ecologists have been trying for or very long to understand the behavior of moths toward the light. However, there are hundreds of thousands of species of moths that do not behave similarly to light, some are attracted and some do not gather around.

Moths usually wander at night and use the moon as a navigation system. Moths usually follow the more by keeping it at a constant angle during their flights to locate their destination. Therefore, to some extent, the new light bulbs act as a moon to them and as an attraction. However, this doesn’t act as a navigation system, but they constantly keep flying around them. Studies have revealed that moths consider them as moonlit flowers which is a basic source of food for them.

Researcher says that lights at night can change the behavior of animals and can also affect their response to random stimuli. A study has revealed that moths can surround the street lamps up to a distance of 23 meters. However, the presence of various species is dependent on the quality and position of street lamps.

Moths are nocturnal because that they like darker zones instead of the central areas of the street where plenty of lights are lighting up. Therefore, they mostly gather under the lights present in dark areas.

However, female and male moths behave differently to the light and phototactic stimulus. These lights can affect the entire food web, composed of insects. As we know that nocturnal insects found dark regions more attractive than central areas which can create a high competition for food between them.


Moreover, researchers say that the dark regions and street lamps are like a vacuum cleaner for nocturnal insects with a radius of 23 meters.

However, entomologists have revealed that moths are less attractive to artificial lights during the time of the full moon compared to the time of the new moon. This theory has a significant impact and observation that plenty of the people have compounds that they cannot catch the same number of moths during the full moon as they do in the time of the new moon. Most of the nocturnal moths are attracted to light but a species known as the Old Lady is not attracted to light.

Research shares that with the invention of UV lamps it has been revealed that the attraction of moths toward light increased drastically. Therefore, nowadays plenty of ultraviolet lamps are available in the market to trap nocturnal insects.

Effects of Light on Moths


Moreover, ultraviolet lights have the same wavelength as their glowing pheromones which intimate them to have sex. These lights remind them to mate regardless of natural stimulus. Researchers say that this is helpful for them to carry on their life cycles which they cannot do while flying to the moon.


In 1970 a researcher, Philip Callaghan, performed an experiment by spraying female pheromones in the air which can emit microwave radiations in the air. Later which can be detected by the male sensilla to activate mating behavior. However, males have been attracted much frequently to lights but fail to mate. Studies reveal that the pores on the moth sensilla should be of similar size as a pheromone.


However, there have been several different theories that make this a controversial observation that either the moths are attracted to light or not.

In a research, tropical biologist Daniel has revealed that during his visit to Costa Rica has observed a big moth feeding on flowers nearby a light source that was not being attracted to by light in any way.

He stated that moths behave differently through their adult stage and spend plenty of their time building a model home for them. Once they become habitual, they can easily switch off of their positive phototactic response and can navigate using nearby landscapes

However, there are several researchers who do not believe in this theory that artificial lights can hinder a moth’s internal navigation system. They believe that both did not circle around bright lights if it was so that they would have been revolving around the distant sun moon and stars all the time. If moths were using artificial lights as a navigation system then it would a failed navigation system as it keeps changing as the moth flies.

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