Why Are Moths Attracted to Light? 3 Possible Explanations

Ever wonder what causes these strides of harm inflicting behaviors and why are moths attracted to light? Lights are plentiful. Street lamps, porch lights, campfires – and practically any other source of the night light – are known swarm insects on a daily basis.

Even though the threat of heat and electrical shock is out there, the moths just can’t help themselves. Well, in this article – we will take a look at the more plausible ideas behind their intuition.

Why Are Moths Attracted to Light?


Nothing happens without reason. So let’s take a look at the more scientific side behind why why do these pests go to light.

I See Light, I Get to Flight = Photo-taxis

The fatal lure of the moth to the source of light is a scientific mystery, to say the least. Moths are most active during nocturnal phases, flying to the light that they witness.

This phenomenon is known as photo-taxis. Nonetheless, some species of moth are actually detracted from lights, being negatively photo-tactic.

And with the creation of the UV lamp for a clinical setting, it has simultaneously been discovered that moths are greatly attracted to ultraviolet sources of light.

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Considering that they are highly sensitive to the electromagnetic spectrum, one can only wonder why they are so keen on burning themselves. Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons.

Moth Attracted to Light: Navigation

In the days of GPS absence, ships still navigated the ocean plains with no landmarks, no buildings, no monuments, no lighthouses, or signs. They had nothing to help them clear the endless sea, except for the North Star.

As the star was a faculty of navigational existence, which they could always rely on.

It is presumed that moths use lights to help navigate their surroundings. And in general, the moon being a powerful light source is one of their primary navigational aids.

A moth will use the uniform light to fly upright and maintain a direct course to wherever they are going. This phenomenon is called the transverse orientation.

Navigation Theory?

Trappify Moth Traps 49

However, this is just a theory, and the idea that a moth uses the moon to keep track at a constant angle with the eye is plausible but silly. This does not explain the attraction to light, as the celestial moon rays are parallel, whereas a lamp radiates its light on a 360 axis.

Considering this, a moth on a wing would have to continuously turn in on itself to remain in perfect angle to the light, which would eventually lead it to hit a lamp, head first.

But, moths do not present such geometric capabilities, and their flight pattern is random at most. Considering that most of their movements would be in alignment with an escapist function and wind disturbances.

It is known that moths are affected by a dorsal light reaction, which means they always keep a softer-source of light above them and dip down when moving towards an artificial source of light. Mistaking it for a skylight.

A moth trap is designed to exploit this response. By placing specific baffles around the lamp, which they can collide with. And by doing so, they incapacitate their movement and fall down into a collection funnel. Not to mention, that quality traps come with pheromones, which help reduce future population growth by eliminating the male moths.

Research Has Been Done

In the 70s, Philip Callaghan has proposed the UV theory upon a moths light attraction. He provisioned that UV lights promoted female moth pheromone molecules in the air, making the insect excited. And this radiation could be detected by the sensilla of a male moth. The male moth did this by using the UV microwaves as a guide to destination.

This hypothesis was not further explored, as it has been determined the male moths are the more flexible sex in any case. And does not explain the attraction of female moths to UV sources of light.

Another experiment by Robin Baker involved the concept of moths being attracted to a source of light. Only if they were in close proximity to the source. And other studies have shown that moths can be attracted to powerful street lamps that are 50+ feet away.

In these two cases, the light only attracts moths. That are positively photo tactic, and just happen to step into the sphere of influence of a light source.

In any case, let’s take a look at some other possibility for photo tactic attraction.

Moths Attracted to Light = Heat

For the sake of discussion, not all moths rely on dorsal reflexes or transverse orientation. Nonetheless, they are still attracted to lights.

We know that the night comes with reduced temperature, so we can presume that insects can feel the cold, as well. Light sources are heat sources, so it’s only second nature for a moth to get up close and warm themselves up.

However, this faculty of being attracted to warmth leads to a fatal result.

To the Light the Moth Was Blind

Now that the moth has hit the light source, one would think that they can realize that it is not the moon and/or burns them? However, this is not the case.

Typically, a moth will continue to fly into the glass, and fly in circles around the lamp for an extended period of time. Considering that moths rely on visual senses, one can presume that they are blinded by the light.

Flying into the light source, their visual cues adjust to the brightness. And when they turn away to fly again, they cannot see anything in the dark from the adjusted splash of light.

Considering that the night is paramount for other insects who are predators, and hunt for moths. Scared of the darkness, they turn back around and fly back to the “safety” of a light.

And because of this they are stuck in a loop of primal reflexes. Which make them stuck around the light source as if they were flying to the moon.

What Sort of Light Bulb Attracts Moths to Light the Most?

When buying light bulbs for your outside space, you should focus on lamps that are certified not to attract moths and other insects. This is critical to having a peaceful and serene evening without swelling bites.

A compact fluorescent bulb attracts the most insects. As they produce beams of violet wavelengths, which as mentioned earlier – attract a lot of insects.

An incandescent light bulb is another favorite in the moth world. These are most often used inside a home, and having an old LED light will help swarm your home with flying beasts.

And if this light can be seen from the outside, you are bound to experience a rapid increase of moths in your home.

Do Any Lights Not Attract Moths?

For outdoor areas, you are best left to use yellow lights. These are tonal lights, which emit little amounts of UV – and are not as attractive to an insect, as a UV light would be.

Most new LED light bulbs are specifically crafted to have lower levels of blue light and UV. Making them an affordable solution to the direct flow of flying insects within your home.

However, you can always purchase specialized bug lights, which are said to attract a significantly lesser percentage of insects.

If you have any questions regarding lights for moths, get in touch with us (support@trappify.com) and we will help you out.

Moths Attracted to Light No Longer

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Now that we have covered the scientific and pragmatic reasons for why are moths attracted to light. You are well on your way to comprehending, and dealing with this issue within the compounds of your home.

As mentioned, in most cases – even with special lamps, you are not able to fully decrease their presence. However, you can certainly use a more proactive approach to terminating the population by using specifically crafted traps.

In any case, whichever solution you choose for solving this nagging reminder of the animal kingdom – it will be the right decision for you.

Hey, you can even use water by holding it about 10 cm away from the light source. The bright reflection should attract the insects over-time. Making the entire swarm drown in the pool of liquids that you have hung up or are holding (working those shoulder muscles)

A physical handheld bug zapper can also work, but it’s not really for the faint of heart. You’ve really got to be a savage to perform that kind of work.

If you’ve ever wondered why mosquito bites itch so much, take a look at another one of our blogs.

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