Living With Lighting

Light Trap

Moths and Other Insects Attracted to a Mercury Vapour Light

Lights at night are marketed as promoting safety and in widespread use in areas inhabited by humans. Lighting can inadvertently lead to large populations of insects nearby. Insects may be attracted to lights by mistaking them for celestial light sources used for nighttime orientation. At close range, insects may become disoriented, stay and rest in the area.

Light does not always increase safety. In at least one case, reviewed by Barghini and Medeiros*, insects attracted to lights caused disease in humans. A sugar cane kiosk in Brazil attracted Triatoma tibiamaculata, true bugs that are vectors of Chagas disease. The bugs made their way into the sugar cane being pressed to make drinks. Pressing the bugs released the Chagas trypanosome into the sugar cane liquid. Twelve people who consumed the sugar cane drink were infected with Chagas disease.

Entomologists are interested in insect orientation to lights and the relative attractiveness of different sources of light.

*Alessandro Barghini and Bruno A. S. de Medeiros. 2010. Artificial Lighting as a Vector Attractant and Cause of Disease Diffusion. Environ Health Perspect. 118: 1503–1506.
doi:  10.1289/ehp.1002115

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Environment, Health. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Living With Lighting

  1. lizard100 says:

    I find light pollution very frustrating.

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