Oh the Entomology! Light pollution “radically altered” environment – making more bugs, more bug predators

From the University of Exeter , some buggy science. Next thing you know, PETA will be campaigning to have us shut off street lighting to “save the insects”. I’m surprised it has taken them this long to figure out that bugs like street lights. Perhaps like moths drawn to a flame, these scientists were drawn to a grant to study this. The results are another “could may, might” effect on the entire food chain. Something MUST be done. /sarc

Long exposures of insects under a street light. – Click for video

Light pollution transforming insect communities

Street lighting is transforming communities of insects and other invertebrates, according to research by the University of Exeter. Published today (23 May 2012) in the journal Biology Letters, the study shows for the first time that the balance of different species living together is being radically altered as a result of light pollution in our towns and cities.

Believed to be increasing by six per cent a year globally, artificial lighting is already known to affect individual organisms, but this is the first time that its impact on whole communities has been investigated.

This study shows that groups of invertebrates living near to artificial lights include more predators and scavengers. This could be impacting on the survival rates of different species, having a knock-on effect on birds and mammals that rely on these species for food. The effects could be affecting entire ecosystems and even humans.

The research team based their study in the market town of Helston in West Cornwall. They placed pitfall traps directly under and between street lamps that were 35 metres apart for a number of days and nights. This allowed them to compare, not only results for day and night, but also differences between areas under and away from street lights.

They collected 1,194 individuals covering 60 species. They discovered that total numbers were more abundant under street lights, where they also found more predatory and scavenging species, such as ground beetles and harvestmen. This was the case during the day, as well as at night, suggesting that the effect on communities is ongoing.

Lead author Dr Tom Davies of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus said: “Our study shows that light pollution could be having a dramatic effect on wildlife in our towns and cities. We need to be aware of how the increase in artificial lighting is impacting on the delicate ecosystems on which we all rely. Our research shows, for the first time, the changes that light pollution is making to entire communities of invertebrates. We now need to examine what impact this is having on other communities and how this may be affecting important ecosystem services and whether we should change the way we light urban spaces.”

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90 Responses to Oh the Entomology! Light pollution “radically altered” environment – making more bugs, more bug predators

  1. In the UK we have had street lighting since Victorian times. Over that time no insect has suffered and those that predate insects are still with us. No change there then.

  2. Greg says:

    Do these researchers ever take a drive out to the country?

  3. Jeff says:

    “We now need to examine what impact this is having on other
    communities and how this may be affecting important ecosystem
    services and whether we should change the way we light urban spaces.”

    Which, translated to normal English is, “We need more funding.”

    and
    “Believed to be increasing by six per cent a year globally”…
    Great. Now the bugs have models. From hockey stick
    to fly swatter…

  4. DMatteson says:

    Shouldn’t that be PETI (People for the Ethical Treatment of Insects)?

  5. TDBraun says:

    I find this interesting, but it is so vague. What would be concerning is if they could show that street lighting has had negative effects on animals that hunt insects in the dark, including perhaps bats. Worth further study… maybe they could get some more grant money by claiming it has something to do with global warming.

  6. Craig Goodrich says:

    Yet another demonstration that the need for academics to publish produces an increase in invertibrate editors.

  7. LearDog says:

    Written as if the man from Exeter actually IS a part of the food chain? As if we RELY on the invertebrates in our towns and cities? Rely? I’m thinking his hunting and gathering likely includes merely Tesco’s …..? :-D

  8. “…Our study shows that light pollution could be having a dramatic effect on wildlife in our towns and cities. We need to be aware of how the increase in artificial lighting is impacting on the delicate ecosystems on which we all rely…”

    Maybe they can get a grant to do the same study in North Korea.

    Anybody who’s seen the satellite shots of North Korea at nighttime knows what I’m talking about.

  9. Bill says:

    “We now need to examine the impact on ….”

    Translation: this should get me a few more easy pubs, maybe a Nature article if I make it scary enufff and link to “Climate Change”, and allow me to renew my grant so I can produce even more Biology PhD’s w/o jobs.

  10. BigBadBear says:

    “Could” this…. “could” that… “may” the other… Truly fed up with grants being given out for utter nonsense as this. I’m voting UKIP at the next election, they are the only party with sensible policies on energy.

  11. Robert Wille says:

    Somebody paid for this? Haven’t these folks sat out on their porch at night with the light on? If there ever was a study of something drop-dead obvious, this is it.

  12. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    I recall lying awake in bed in Kampala in the 80′s and hearing what sounded like a group of passing students on their way home from a party. Giggling and chatting, they were audible about the shrill of the night. But instead of carrying on down the road to Seven Mile Hill the party continued, hour after hour. What on earth was going on, I wondered.

    In the morning my host Tom Gossen told me that the reason they didn’t move on was that nightly under each streetlight a group staked out a claim to the insects available and captured them throughout the night. I saw the critters for sale, roasted, at the market in the morning – 10 Ugandan ‘Shillingis’ each.

    They were catching what appeared to be a type ‘katydid’. I am sure there are lots of edible bugs. Katydids are predators. This rather contradicts the study above: If the lights draw more predators, and the top predators is Man, then the lights are helping to reduce the number of predators, not prey – at least in some countries.

    Hmm…. predators being eaten by top predators…. sounds suspiciously similar to the universe where Emperor Bokassa lived (dubbed the Central African Empire at that time) – he of ‘give a huge diamond to a French President’ fame. My lawyer friend in Bangui said his primary and immediate task when contacted by powerful clients was to spring them from the Central Prison before a certain top predator put out their lights and they found themselves, like those Kampala critters, deep-fried in oil. No kidding. My friend’s cook knew the top predator’s cook and you do not want to know the details.

    The darkness of ignorance is on rare occasion preferable to the Light of Knowledge.

  13. Jonathan Smith says:

    Lucky for all these ‘delicate ecosystems’, that have endured everything nature has thrown at them, that these academics have arrived just in time to save them. If cockroaches can survive a nuclear war, aren’t a few streetlights a bit of a joke?

  14. Berényi Péter says:

    Eh, and God said, let there be light pollution: and there was light pollution. And God saw the light pollution, that it was good: and God diuided the light pollution from the abominable purity of darkenesse.

  15. polistra says:

    Obviously we need to study the sun as well, since its presence dramatically affects the movements of insects. We need to make sure the sun always shines exactly the same hours every day of the year in every place. No more seasons, no more clouds. Protect bugs against all unpredictable exigencies!

  16. Tom in mosquito infested Florida says:

    Next the animal police will want us to stop using insect repellant because it may deprive those lovable mosquitoes from an important food source.

  17. M Courtney says:

    If this is true then, so what?
    Are we meant to abolish evolution?
    How would living in darkness achieve that anyway?

    Having said that, there are plenty of good reasons to think about whether lights need to be left on all the time. I’m just not sure that unpredictable microfauna changes is one of the best.

  18. Harry Won A Bagel says:

    Perhaps he overstates the results of his research a bit. However I do have a solution. Use more bug spray, particularly near lights. Personally I have a bug zapper, not because they are more efficient, they aren’t. A well directed cloud of poison is also more dramatic. It is that every time I hear that zap-sizzle noise I enjoy a frission , the thrill of victory, technology over nature. It is just so damn satisfying.

  19. higley7 says:

    1) Ecosystems are not as delicate as they think. Of course, it does not serve their goals to admit so.

    2) How about the ecosystems deal with us for a change? We are as natural as they are, only doing natural things.

    3) Ecosystems are not static, they are always changing. Let them change. Who are they to say that some endangered species is not preserved by the advent of street lights? The reputed species extinctions caused by tiny changes in global temperatures are all theoretical. They postulate how many species that go extinct before we ever detect them—it’s fantasy “science.”

    4) There is no aspect of our activities that does not have effects locally. Are we supposed to avoid ALL effects? It’s simply impossible. Stepping outside in the morning has an impact. All houses occupy land that cannot be used by a chipmunk to burrow a home or trees that can harbor birds. The hand-wringers would have us all disappear to save the environment from us. How about saving us from the idiot environmentalists?

    5) It is the species that endear themselves to us that are the winners. At the moment, our entire planet is at risk, with all of its eggs in one basket. We need to colonize other planets or moons to reduce the chance of being wiped out by a single asteroid collision. Those animals that endear themselves to us, such that we take them with us, are the real winners here. The other species remain at peril and probably are due for extinction eventually anyhow. They have not stepped up and made themselves useful. That’s poor planning on their part.

  20. kenmueller40 says:

    So then, is North Korea practically bug free?

  21. higley7 says:

    Come to think of it, winter is the most unproductive aspect of our world. We HAVE to do something about it. Think of the stress it puts on ecosystems of all kinds. Why have we let this go on for so long? Think of all of the death and destruction that it causes. If they think we can control the weather and climate, then we should be able to alter the seasons. Let’s get to it!

  22. Darkinbad The Brightdayler says:

    The effect is likely to be local and no different to an African waterhole except in scale.
    Yes, light navigating insects, confusing the lamp with the moon will fly around in circles until exhuasted, they fall to the ground.
    Yes, predatory and scavenging insects will exploit the opportunity and clean up.
    Yes, there will be local abundance above the average density for the area.
    I’m sure that they’ve found an effect. I’d be surprised if they didn’t.
    I’ll bet they discovered a Lagrange point between the streetlamps!
    What worries me is their progression from what they’ve observed to what they’ve inferred.
    There needs to be a much more robust support in their discussion of the move from the particular to the general.

  23. PRD says:

    Here is an emperical observation for you all. I have LED, Curly CFL’s of different color temps, and plain old tungsten filament light bulbs in outdoor lights.

    The LED consistently has the fewest flying critters around it, while the CFL’s have clouds of insects. The old tungsten also receives a great deal of attention.

    I’ve installed LED’s with different color temps (wavelengths) and some receive slightly more attention than others, but overall attract flying insects far less than any other lighting.

  24. F. Ross says:

    Anthony, small one …in title “evironment” >>>environment?

    REPLY: Fixed thanks, A

  25. Jim Clarke says:

    “We need to be aware of how the increase in artificial lighting is impacting on the delicate ecosystems on which we all rely.”

    I don’t know about you, but I tend to rely an awful lot on artificial lighting, and not so much on the ecosystem of insects in and around the neighborhood. And what is it with this ‘delicate’ classification? Insects appear to be some of the most robust and adaptable life forms on a planet filled with robust and adaptable life forms. We can not get rid their ‘delicate ecosystem’ even when we try!

    Academics and environmentalists have fallen in love with a biosphere that only existed for a brief time before the industrial revolution. This arbitrary selection of a ‘correct’ biosphere is not only scientifically ridiculous, but environmentally damaging.

    These are the same people who use the theory of evolution as a litmus test for scientific literacy. You remember evolution: survival of the fittest, adaptability and all that jazz? But now, evolution is apparently a bad thing. Change is not supposed to happen and the survival of the weakest has become the noble cause of the modern environment movement.

    Change is the life-blood of evolution and the enemy of modern environmentalists. Change is the only constant in the biosphere. Change is natural. Preventing change is unnatural. What does that tell you about the environmental movement?

  26. Leo Morgan says:

    It’s even worse than we thought!
    Electric lights used to attract and kill moths the way candles do. Now the irrational have mandated CFL’s, and horny moths seeking mates no longer burn to death. 10 per household per year* times 115 million households* times .1 gram* per moth = 115 tonnes per year of extra moths mating and breeding ten thousand more each.

    * Numbers Source:
    1) I made it up
    2) US census, rounded
    3) Googled Website
    4)Different Googled website.

  27. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    @PRD

    Is it the absence of a UV content in their spectrum that is so disinteresting? Lots of insects can see ultraviolet light. The LED’s are just three monochromatic colours, all visible to us, right?

  28. Paul Grainger says:

    Anthony, I’m sure that your remark about shutting off street lighting to “save the insects” was “tongue in cheek”.
    However, in my home town of Tewkesbury, (UK), the authorities already DO turn off street lights early in some areas to protect the local insect life.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/6692922/Glow-worm-friendly-cycle-path.html
    Enjoy!

  29. Olen says:

    GE and the congress will see opportunity here to invent and allow only an ecosystem delicate balancing bug friendly low emission light bulb that no one wants or can afford.

    For the first time in the history of man, except in N Korea and Mt Everest man has non-combustible light on demand in homes and the street for convenience, safety and security, he has drained the wetlands in Europe AKA swamps and that has been proven to be good for the health and progress of mankind.

    Malaria’s decline in the United States and Europe in the late 1800s was due mainly to draining swamps and removing mill ponds. Anyone reading tombstones in early European and American graveyards can see the damage of swamps on humans, especially children 5 or younger. Removing disease and bug infested swamps has been called a bad thing by those who love such things. And now the light could be harmful to bugs and entire ecosystems.

    We have seen dramatic effect on wildlife in towns and cities with the anti-hunting protection of the fox in the UK and bears in the US. Never mind these creatures in towns and cities could be harmful to humans.

    Does anyone ever wonder why flying insects don’t head for the sun the biggest light of all?

  30. ferd berple says:

    What about save the worms? What about buildings and roads and the effects they are having on worms? Worms are the most significant and successful land animal on earth. They comprise some 90% of the total mass of land animals. Everything else pales in comparison.

    Humans have gone from using 4% of the land surface 150 years ago, to using 40% today. Of that a significant fraction is pavement and concrete. What effect is this having on the soil below? Preventing water, air and sunlight from reaching the soil and thus having a significant effect on the ecosystem of the most important land animal on earth.

    Tarmac roads need to be replaced with sustainable dirt roads in keeping with UN policy on sustainable development. Pavement and concrete levels must be immediately rolled back to 1990 levels, with a further 20% reduction by 2020 and a 50% reduction by 2050. This policy needs to be backed up by force if necessary using the full might of the UN. Selective bombing will be used as necessary to ensure all development is sustainable.

    Reportedly the government of Oz is well aware of the problem. With help from NASA and the EU they are planning to implement the worlds first Tarmac Exchange. Large portions of Ozzie Tarmac will be torn up (no one will much notice the difference) and shipped to the Maldives and other island nations as part of “Operation King Canute”, paid for by a Tarmac Tax.

    Every citizen in Oz will receive a Tarmac Rebate to offset the costs, to ensure that Tarmac Polluters pay their fair share. Those companies that are emitting the highest levels of Tarmac will pay the highest tax and thus save the most important land animal in existence.

  31. And IPCC said: Let there be darkness!

  32. Chuck L says:

    All the insect community needs is (rimshot), a community organizer!!!

  33. The swallows have returned to the old Spanish mission at San Juan Capistrano every March 19th for centuries. This happened to be my birthday, so a few years back i visited to savor the moment. Television news crews set up at the mission, ready for “live coverage” of the return. By the evening news there were NO SWALLOWS at the mission. Turned out that the then new, Mission Viejo Mall had converted the birds. The mall’s parking lot lighting allowed the swallows to catch bumper crops of flying insects in the cool of the night, along with new easy nesting sites. There is no longer is “special interest” news coverage of the “Swallows Return to the Mall”.

  34. TomB says:

    TDBraun says:
    May 23, 2012 at 5:16 am

    I find this interesting, but it is so vague. What would be concerning is if they could show that street lighting has had negative effects on animals that hunt insects in the dark, including perhaps bats.

    The bats love it. The area around street lights becomes the bats’ happy hunting ground.

  35. TomB says:

    ferd berple says:
    May 23, 2012 at 7:38 am

    What about save the worms?

    ferd, stop giving them ideas. To us it sounds crazy. Unfortunately, you might flip a switch in the wrong mind.

  36. RockyRoad says:

    If bugs can accommodate street lighting, they can easily accommodate a bit of global warming (or global cooling, or climate change, or climate disruption, or weather weirding, or…)

  37. richardscourtney says:

    Greg:

    At May 23, 2012 at 5:02 am you ask;

    Do these researchers ever take a drive out to the country?

    Yes, these went to Helston which is a small town ~10 miles up the road from me here in Cornwall. Apart from the nearby Culdrose naval airbase, Helston is very rural.

    They could have done the study in Exeter where they are based.

    They must have had a nice holiday, but I would have done the job at Helston with much lower travel costs. Or, if they had chosen Exeter, then TonyB could have done it for them during his frequent visits to study ancient climate records in the library at Exeter Cathedral.

    Of course, in reality their doing the research at Helston shows they are at the bottom of the AGW-funding food chain. Helston is a nice holiday spot but not as good as Rio, Copenhagen, etc.

    Richard

  38. Tom in mosquito infested Florida says:
    Next the animal police will want us to stop using insect repellant because it may deprive those lovable mosquitoes from an important food source.

    What, you’ve never heard of Silent Spring? {/sarc}

  39. Berényi Péter says:

    The entire question could be solved by compulsory replacement of light bulbs by dark bulbs. A dark bulb would not emit harmful radiation, for it does not emit any radiation whatsoever. Is not it ingenious? It does not even consume electricity, so no connection to the network is needed either (great savings!). However, in exchange for these benefits one has to present the bills of dark bulbs purchased to the tax authority at the end of the fiscal year, and if the money spent on those marvelous earth-savers is less than the prescribed quota, the missing sum plus an appropriate fine should be transferred to the state’s account. These measures would surely put an end to any light pollution.

    However, as some R+D is still needed to develop advanced dark bulbs, twice the amount of money collected this way is to be spent on grants, incentives and bank guarantees going to cutting edge enterprises.

    /sarc off

  40. Alan Watt says:

    I know it is stereotyping, but whenever I see anything from an organization or department with “Sustainability” in the title, I assume the output is worthless.

    In this case the problem aligns perfectly with the desired result: just enforce use of renewable power for streetlights and the lights will be dark most of the time. Bugs will be happy. People will be bumping into things, like streetlight poles and muggers.

    Not really a problem because in the US hardly anybody walks anywhere more than a block away. This will just cause people to get in their cars and drive 1 block or less instead of walking so they can see where they are going and not run into muggers.

    So on a more thorough examination, turning off the streetlights doesn’t make sense as the increased CO2 emissions from more automobile use will outweigh the decrease due to renewable energy use.

    I shouldn’t have to, but “/sarc” in case anyone was in doubt.

  41. Bruce Cobb says:

    The concept of light pollution has been around for a while, and it is a real concern. One thing to point out is that it is light which is doing more than what is actually needed, meaning it is wasteful, in addition to whatever damage it may be causing the ecosystem. We humans are not exempt from the harmful effects either. Fortunately, there are relatively easy, and not very costly ways of dealing with it.

  42. “could be having a dramatic effect on wildlife in our towns and cities”

    Yeah, the herd of elk at the corner of Sunset and Vine.

  43. Steve C says:

    I find light pollution pretty objectionable, but it’s for astronomical rather than entomological reasons. Bet there are more astronomical objects you can’t see because of it than species of insect you won’t see.

  44. John G says:

    3% of earth’s land surface is covered with urban areas leaving 97% for the insects to do their thing free from streetlights. That of course ignores the problem of how to keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris.

  45. techgm says:

    “This is the first time that its impact on whole communities has been investigated.” And for good reason, too. Previous generations knew it was a total waste of money to investigate the obvious and trivial.

  46. Greg R. says:

    DMatteson says:
    May 23, 2012 at 5:08 am
    Shouldn’t that be PETI (People for the Ethical Treatment of Insects)?

    ===============

    But that would be descriminatory. What of the arachnids? It should remain PETA (Peeps for the Ethical Treatment of Arthropods).

  47. MTM says:

    While I don’t have any comment on the study, I remember moving to a town where you could see the Milky Way at night from my back yard, 10 years and several shopping centers later… gone.

    http://www.darkskysociety.org

  48. jayhd says:

    Lights at night attract bugs, and the bugs and small mammals that prey on them. The people who did this study , and the people who payed for it, and the people who published it, should all be ashamed of themselves for the wasted time, money and ink! This is the kind of stuff done in the 4th through 7th grade science classes.
    Now, I do a lot of night fishing near bridges. And I’ve found that bait fish frequent the bridges where there are lights shining on the water. And I’ve found that is the place to fish at night for the predators that prey on those bait fish. In a nutshell, that’s my research and conclusion. All given to you fishermen out there for free.

    Jay Davis

  49. RobRoy says:

    wow! More insects under street lights. Isn’t science wonderful.
    (Are bugs are not attracted to lights lit by renewable energy?)

  50. u.k.(us) says:

    Not sure this would apply to the study, but:
    The street light in front of my house was out for about 3 days, before I went out one morning to find my car window smashed and radar detector gone.
    (the punks got the detector, but the wiring snapped where it enters the unit. Idiots.
    Me for leaving the unit in plain sight, them for stealing a now useless item).

  51. kramer says:

    What’s the solution, turn off the lights? (I wouldn’t be surprised…)

  52. Larry Hulden says:

    Could anybody find an adress for this article? I only found articles in 2012 from February (nr 1), April (nr 2) and June (nr 3) but not May.
    I would like to present this study for people who have collected insects with light traps during the recent 50 years.
    Larry fullstop Hulden at Helsinki fullstop Fi

  53. AnonyMoose says:

    “This could be impacting on the survival rates of different species, having a knock-on effect on birds and mammals that rely on these species for food.”

    Apparently the researcher was standing close enough to the streetlight to scare birds away.

  54. Dave Dodd says:

    If a doctor shined his light into the ear of one of these morons, I’d bet it would show on the far wall! Good lord!!!

  55. Richard111 says:

    Some fourty years ago I was based in South West Africa on the the north bank of the Orange River. As we cooled off after sunset with our ice cold beers the local insects came to feed on us. As we found this unpleasant we decided to do something. This involved suspending a very bright lamp over an open topped oildrum filled with water with a spoonfull of cooking oil to reduce surface tention. This was placed on the desert sand about fifty yards from us and left us rather more comfortable with the much reduced attention from the insects. So I can confirm insects tend to be attracted to the brightest light in the locality. Unfortunately it never occurred to us to catalogue or count the insects in the water next morning. All I can say is that the quantity was impressive.

  56. David says:

    I suggest a study that would determine the number of injuries (or death) to humans by reducing the amount of light. Then we could let scientists decide the right amout of light we should have (sarc).

  57. Gary Hladik says:

    kramer says (May 23, 2012 at 9:48 am): “What’s the solution, turn off the lights? (I wouldn’t be surprised…)”

    I think a better question is…”What’s the problem?” :-)

  58. John Barrett says:

    There’s a bat that activates the security light on my carport. I am pretty convinced that the little blighter is doing it on purpose.
    ( just wait till I get him and show him the bill )

  59. Russ says:

    Then along comes a crop farmer spraying insecticide and wipes out billions of bugs so hundreds of acres of land have zero insects. Now that is something we should be worried about.

  60. Silver Ralph says:

    Talking of bugs…

    A note to Michael Mann. London’s chestnut trees are having a really bad time this year due various infestations, and many only have 10 – 20 % of the leaves they normally have.

    If you (Michael Mann) take cores from these trees in the future, they will tell you that 2012 was the coldest ever year throughout the whole world – the coldest since the last Ice Age.

    I thought you had better know that.

    http://www.londongardenstrust.org/index.htm?features/chestnut.htm

    .

  61. Gunga Din says:

    Hmmm ….. Insects breath. Insects emit CO2. Maybe the problem isn’t man-made global warming but insect-made global warming? If we installed bug zappers under every outdoor light … problem solved!

  62. anengineer says:

    We need an immediate and complete ban on after dark outside lighting and displays. Then widely broadcast how it will help prevent global warming so that people will realize how important it is to do so.

    Very educational.

  63. Ally E. says:

    “Delicate ecosystems.” It’s always delicate ecosystems. Life is robust. Life is all about adaptation, which is a strength. Nature never has been and never will be weak or delicate.

  64. SocialBlunder says:

    Insects transfer energy from plants to predators – small mammals, birds, fish etc. If nocturnal insects spend their time circling lights instead of eating and mating, much fewer insects will be alive to make that transfer of energy. When I was growing up, I remember having to wash the car if it was driven at night because of all the insect goo that would cover it. I no longer have that problem – nor am I able to see many of the constellations I could back then.

  65. Annie says:

    fred berple @7.38 am:

    They are already working on ‘disintegrating’ the roads in Gloucestershire in the UK. Every month there are more and more deep potholes on the small country roads, lots of gravel and stones lying about, water filling the holes (from all the rain we had in our recent very wet ‘drought’) and grass and other weeds taking up residence. All of this must be great for the worms I guess!

  66. Bill Parsons says:

    Good Gawd! This only differs from an elementary school bug project in that participants have already worked up remarks about ecological problems.

    As a six-year-old I remember watching the bats zip through the cone of the corner streetlight, collecting bugs. I presume these are not deemed unwanted or unnatural predators?

  67. Bill Parsons says:

    I suggest we just extinguish all those man-made polluting devices. Then we can retreat behind locked doors, put on our night goggles, and watch the “natural” predators emerge and rejoice in the return to primal darkness.

  68. Gail Combs says:

    Someone needs to give these idiots a remedial course in something called evolution.

  69. _Jim says:

    This is what I like about Texas: No bugs!

    This time of year with +30 mph winds from the south all the insect life is (quite literally) swept away! Lighting or no!

    Where do they all go I wonder … someplace further north with the wind it would seem to be …

  70. _Jim says:

    Alan Watt says on May 23, 2012 at 8:40 am:


    So on a more thorough examination, turning off the streetlights doesn’t make sense …

    Funny you should mention that; IR motion detectors for streetlights are just around the corner; implemented more now in private applications where the bill-payer doesn’t want to pay for electricity all night long to illuminate an ‘empty’, unused, devoid of human life parking lot …

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110712093623.htm

    http://www.gizmag.com/motion-sensing-streetlight-system/19199/

    .

  71. RoHa says:

    Now even the University of Exeter is using “impact” as a verb.

    Sigh.

    We are most undeniably doomed.

  72. Chris Edwards says:

    Oddly the university of Exeter is sited in a stunning campus, on a large hill, acres and acres of trees and grass, some great old buildings, I wonder why the wanted to go an hour south to Helston ?? apart from the likelihood of being fed on by mosquitos, a la Canada, I would have thought their home base would have been as perfect! Also it seems somewhat childish and ill thought out!

  73. James Bull says:

    So what we are meant to do is go to bed when it gets dark and get up when it gets light and not travel at night apart from walking and only if it’s a clear moon/starlit night! Simple, then all the bugs would be happy!

    Can bugs be happy?
    James Bull

  74. Mike Wryley says:

    1200 bugs ? That’s a pretty sorry total for a university level study. Please supply an analysis of the cost per bug versus the number of PHDs and grad students receiving grant welfare for this project.
    I have another idea for a study, the common American toad, through a sheer act of genius, has also discovered that the bug buffet is conveniently located near almost every porch lamp. This brazen predator, probably made more aggressive due to climate change, might not only destroy the delicate balance of insomniac insects, but could even cause the axis of the earth to shift by lowering the center of gravity of the biosphere. Only a thorough analysis of toad droppings will allow a determination of the insect devastation. I think I could accomplish such a study for $247,789.69, plus a per diem and toad rental fees.
    .

  75. michael hart says:

    I think most of the comments here are being too generous towards this study.

    I read the materials and methods section, and guess what? They did not perform any control experiments by switching the street lights OFF at night. Neither did they report any control experiments by switching the street lights ON during the day time. Neither do the words “OFF” or “OUT” appear anywhere in the body of the article.

    At this point, words fail me.

  76. SocialBlunder says:

    Words probably fail you often when you don’t understand them. “They placed pitfall traps directly under and between street lamps that were 35 metres apart for a number of days and nights. This allowed them to compare, not only results for day and night, but also differences between areas under and away from street lights.”

  77. michael hart says:

    SocialBlunder says:
    May 23, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    “Words probably fail you often when you don’t understand them. “They placed pitfall traps directly under and between street lamps that were 35 metres apart for a number of days and nights. This allowed them to compare, not only results for day and night, but also differences between areas under and away from street lights.””

    No it does not. Focus on the science, not the words.
    They needed to do control experiments that allowed them to eliminate factors other than light.

    Consider: If birds ever perch on the street light and defecate, then it may affect the ground underneath which, in turn, could easily affect the vegetation and insects. A location distal to the street lamp will be affected by more factors than just light.

  78. michael hart says:

    Some other confounding factors for these authors to consider:
    1) Dogs also like to urinate against lamp posts, especially male dogs.
    2) Female dogs often have a different style, and hormones in their urine can have a pronounced negative effect on plant growth and hence insects.
    3) Some insects, such as ants, may make a nest under the lamp post.
    4) Spiders may weave webs on the post.
    5) I also find in difficult to cut the grass directly next to a post in the ground.
    6) It may also be warmer right next a an object that is consuming electricity.
    7) Some lamp posts make an electrical humming noise. I walked past one last night. Perhaps insects are affected by that.
    8) Were the posts made of metal or wood?

    I certainly don’t think that article is worth reading any more.

  79. ALAN says:

    iF THE AMOUNT OF BUGS AROUND THE LAMPS WAS GREATER THAN IN BETWEEN FOR BOTH DAY AND NIGHT, MAYBE IT IS THE POST THAT ATTRACTS THEM AND NOT THE LIGHT ON TOP. MAKES A MUCH SENSE AS ANYTHING ELSE IN THIS.

    [Please check your caps-unlock key...8<) Robt]

  80. Aha… let’s all go quietly into the dark, for cockroaches’ sake.

  81. gopal panicker says:

    i used to observe birds feasting under the streetlights at night…day birds adapting to a new source of food

  82. 4 eyes says:

    Light pollution? not just light? what’s the difference. I guess we should just do away with humanity and that includes mad scientists. No people means no lights means the bug populations will grow to their level of sustainability to be eaten mercilessly by bigger bugs. What a perfect world. Ultimately humans may re-evolve and start the cycle of producing too much light again

  83. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Darwin makes common sense to me. Evolution of species, survival of the fittest, seek the best mate.
    If I was a lonely, lustful male insect late at night when the pub lights had gone out, I’d welcome the light from a street lamp to be sure I was moving in to mate with a luscious female. Oh, quel horreur if I got it wrong through lack of light pollution.

  84. Speculation about what might, or might not, be going on in an urban area are irrelevant in the context of this “survey”. The paper says “.. in the town of Helston, Cornwall, UK (50°06′ 09.06” N, 5°15′ 29.83” W), which is not IN the town (a mere 9,800 pop. town at that) but on the eastern grass verge of the A394 bypass to the E of the town, with agricultural fields and woods immediately adjacent to the east.

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=50.102516,-5.258286&hl=en&ll=50.102744,-5.258439&spn=0.007226,0.011802&sll=51.628611,-0.748229&sspn=0.111887,0.188828&t=h&z=16

  85. Cantillon says:

    Re: PETA
    You might like to know that, a year or so back, when there was a gas rig doing exploration work on the shores of Lake Geneva, the local Khmer Verte tried to get it shut down because its lights were attracting too many bugs from the nearby national park.

    There is no parody you can attempt of the behaviour of these loons that surpasses their actual inanity!

  86. PaulH says:

    That’s a great photo. :-) I’ll have to try to get one like that.

  87. rbateman says:

    I wonder where all those bugs are going to go when they switch off the lights?
    Oh, I forgot, streetlights are usually hard wired, so the whole grid will have to be taken down.
    So, the bugs simply have to wait a bit until the contents of refrigerators are emptied.
    It’s much worse than previously imagined.

  88. Richard says:

    Greg says:
    May 23, 2012 at 5:02 am
    Do these researchers ever take a drive out to the country?
    ========================================================================

    There is a part of the country left that isn’t overwhelmed with light pollution? I live in a very small, under 3,000 people, town, and there is a street light about every 100 feet, if even that far apart. At night, if you are lucky, you might see 5 stars in the sky. Most of the time you can only see the moon. Light does affect wildlife. It’s basic junior high school level biology. I know some would like to see every square inch of the planet lit up like Las Vegas, but it’s not good and it’s not healthy.

  89. H.R. says:

    The obvious solution is more government, just like everything else.

    I’m waiting for the appropriate three different federal agencies working on the same solution to the same non-problem to issue grants to the various state governments so the states can each use two different deaprtments working at cross-purposes to issue funds to the counties so they can distribute the money to their cities and towns to buy all those little night bugs teensy-eensy-tee-tiny-itty-bitty nano-SUNGLASSES, regardless of any individual bugs’ ability to pay. We can pay for it by taxing the rich.

    There. Problem solved. Let’s move on.

  90. Dave says:

    Michael Hart makes some excellent points, but other than the poor experimental design (one town, 3 days and nights [one for each author?] in one August, 14 street lamps, two pitfall traps per lamp at set distances, no real controls, and arthropods lumped into artificial trophic categories), the major problem with this study is that pitfall traps (cups dug into the ground into which wandering animals may fall and drown) measure activity levels, not abundance. The more you move, the more you are likely to fall into a cup.

    So, perhaps ‘predators’ were more active under those 14 street lamps at night (this is nothing new) on those three nights in August in that town. If you look at the differences in their tables (mostly very small and with overlapping standard error bars) though, with that many comparisons something was likely to be significantly different by chance, and they didn’t transform the data (highly unlikely to be normally distributed) for the ANOVA (and one wonders why not?).

    Good example of how waving a bloody shirt can make or break a paper. But these people are ecologists, not entomologists, so Anthony’s headline is unfair to real buggos.

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