What’s Going On Here?
A new study has revealed that outdoor light pollution could be a key driver of an ‘Insect Apocalypse’. Uh oh!
What Does This Mean?
It’s not often we think about the impacts of streetlights or vehicle headlights on the organisms we live among. We’ve all seen a fried fly or two by a lightbulb or moths swarming around floodlights (okay maybe more like all those mozzies on holibobs…).
The fact that they can mistake artificial light for the moon and die from exhaustion or get eaten (predators such as rats and geckos have been found to feed around artificial lights) is pretty dark stuff. Well not dark at all really…
After assessing more than 150 studies, the bugged researchers at Washington University concluded that artificial light at night can affect every aspect of insects’ lives from hunting and mating to their predation. For example, the corn earworm moth (dread to think where that one hangs out…) stops mating if it’s brighter than a quarter moon at night.
From the bioluminescent signals used in courtship to food foraging, reproduction, predation and development – the natural rhythm of day and night is critical for the daily grind of an insect.
Why Should We Care?
With 1.4 billion insects per person on our planet and millions still unknown to science, insects play a fundamental role in the functioning of our ecosystems. They pollinate our crops and wild plants, help recycle nutrients back to the Earth and are the base of the food chain for fish, birds and mammals. They’re also a food source for humans in 130 countries worldwide and are becoming an increasingly popular sustainable protein alternative. So basically, we really need them.
But insect populations are rapidly declining all around the world, threatening our food security and ecological communities. This study highlights that light pollution is yet another threat among climate change, pesticide use, invasive species, habitat loss and chemical pollution.
It turns out, light pollution has all sorts of negative effects on organisms, not just insects. Artificial light confuses migratory animals (beach lights disorientate female turtles when nesting) and they can even disrupt our circadian rhythms causing sleeping disorders and health implications.
I’m not saying we should live in darkness and of course but with an increasingly urbanised world, light pollution is something we better start thinking about – especially as a huge proportion of it actually is preventable.
🐝 If you’re into bugs and would like to find out more check out the full meta-analysis here.
💡The good news is we can easily solve this one – so switch off those unnecessary lights and save energy while you’re at it!
🐝You can also install shaders on outdoor lights so they light up a smaller area, and motion-activated lights are another solution to save the poor bugs.
🐝Check out the ‘No Insectinction’ campaign run by the charity dedicated to protecting insects, bugs and invertebrates ➡️ Buglife. Support their work by becoming a member or donate to them!