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Why does light attract moths?

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If you turn on the light on a dark night, you're bound to have a bunch of moths fluttering around the light. It's a known fact that moths are attracted to light, still, they are nocturnal insects nonetheless. It is strange that a nocturnal insect wants to be close to a source of light, as there's not any natural source of light in the nighttime that would be useful to moths. So why does light attract them?

The question itself can be misleading. We assume that moths are attracted to light because they're always fluttering around whenever we turn it on, but there's actually no evidence that moths approach light because they're attracted to it. In fact, many species of moths are repelled by light.

There are various theories about the connection between moths and light, but most scientists who study moths agree that they approach light out of confusion, not attraction. This theory is based on the assumption that moths, which have a good eyesight, orient themselves to fly in a straight line by using natural sources of light, such as the moon and the starts.

Consequently, if this theory is correct, moths are not flying towards the light because they are trying to approach it (they cannot approach the moon, for example), but merely because they see it as a reference point. But unlike the natural sources of light that the moth uses for reference, the artificial sources of light, such as street lights, get closer and closer. The reference point in this case becomes confusing, and the moth starts flying in circles.

Another theory, offering a different explanation, is that moths are looking for food, and they're attracted to flowers that bloom at night. Many such flowers are large and white, thus reflecting as much light as possible.

This theory might explain why moths are attracted to some types of light more than to others. For example, blue and ultraviolet wavelengths seem to be more attractive than yellow ones. Flowers may not reflect all wavelengths equally.

A third explanation implies that moths come towards the light by accident. Their eyes have many facets that collect light, and as a moth approaches a bright light, it is temporarily blinded and its eyes need to adjust. Then, once it has adjusted to the light, the moth is unable to see in the dark, and comes back into the light.

Alexandra is the editor of this article, but she also started a new project about Construction Payroll Software. This is a website which also provides more info about the small business payroll software.

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Alexandra Burlacu
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alexandra@opismedia.com
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