Moth Myth

Moth myth

A persistent marketing exaggeration about LED lighting is the claim that their lack of UV emissions makes them unattractive to insects. While UV will attract some insects and has been used as the basis of bug zappers for years, flying insects are not exclusively attracted to UV.

Why do insects fly into lights?

No-one knows exactly why insects fly into lights. There are theories that are disputed. The most common suggestion is that moths navigate or disperse by flying at a constant angle to the moon. Artificial lights are said to confuse this, but it doesn’t really explain why moths make such a suicidal decision to fly straight into a light source. An interesting idea put forward in the 70s maintained that because the infrared in candles shares some of the light frequencies of the faintly glowing sex pheromones of female moths, the male moths were attracted. Maybe, but that doesn’t explain the attraction to UV light and ignores female moths.

Attracted to LED

Really, the sheer variety of night flying insects in different places at different seasons makes the question impossible to answer definitively. What is true is that some insects fly towards light. LEDs’ lack of UV emissions doesn’t make them immune to the phenomenon. Plenty of people have observed insects attracted to LEDs and at least one pest control company is using modified LEDs to entice flies.

Not an insect free zone

A study published in the Ecological Society of America Journal even warns that plant damage could result (‘potentially amplify phytosanitary pest infestations’ as they put it) from the fact that LED light traps captured 48% more insects than traps fitted with high pressure sodium lamps. LEDs are not the insect free zone some like to claim.

 

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