Study: bugs hate light at night more than “climate change”

Light pollution a reason for insect decline

Artificial lighting at night could be a reason for declining insect populations

Climate change, pesticides and land use changes alone cannot fully explain the decline in insect populations in Germany. Scientists from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) have now discovered that regions that have experienced a sharp decline in flying insects also have high levels of light pollution. Many studies already suggest that artificial light at night has negative impacts on insects, and scientists should pay greater attention to this factor when exploring the causes of insect population declines in the future.

Counting insects is part of the job. CREDIT Gabriel Singer/IGB

The biomass of flying insects has decreased by more than 75 per cent – this alarming figure made front page news in autumn 2017. The study, published in 2017, analysed trends in biomass of flying insects in selected protected areas within agricultural landscapes over the last 27 years, and concluded that changes of climate and habitat are to blame for the decline in insect populations. At the same time, they pointed out that these impacts alone are unable to explain this drastic decline.

Light at the wrong time disturbs the balance of ecosystems

Clearly an assignment for scientists from the Light Pollution and Ecophysiology research group at IGB. After all, they know from previous studies that artificial lighting at night strongly affects the number of insects and insect communities. Therefore, the team led by IGB researcher Dr. Maja Grubisic looked at the locations of the areas involved in the 2017 study: areas in conurbations that have a higher than average level of light pollution. “Half of all insect species are nocturnal. As such, they depend on darkness and natural light from the moon and stars for orientation and movement or to escape from predators, and to go about their nightly tasks of seeking food and reproducing. An artificially lit night disturbs this natural behaviour – and has a negative impact on their chances of survival”, explains Maja Grubisic the starting point of their investigation.

The scientists analysed all recent studies on the effects of artificial light at night on insects, and found that there is strong evidence to suggest a credible link between light pollution and declines in insect populations. For example, flying insects are attracted by artificial lights – and, at the same time, are removed from other ecosystems – and die from exhaustion or as easy prey. Additionally, rows of light prevent flying insects from spreading; causing a lack of genetic exchange within fragmented insect populations that could reduce their resistance to other negative environmental influences, which are especially pronounced in agrarian areas.

A decline in insect populations in agricultural areas – which make up no less than eleven per cent of land use worldwide – does not only mean a decline in species diversity, but also jeopardises important ecosystem services: for example, there are then fewer moths, beetles and flies to pollinate plants. Also, changes in the occurrence and behaviour of pests such as aphids or their enemies such as beetles and spiders can disturb the balance of this well-tuned system. Furthermore, artificial light at night may also have a direct impact on the growth and flowering time of plants, and therefore on yield.

All influencing factors have to be understood and considered – including light pollution

“Our overview study shows that artificial light at night is widely present and can have complex impacts in agricultural areas, with unknown consequences for biodiversity and crop production. Thus, light pollution should be generally considered as a potential ecosystem disturbance in future studies to identify ways in which practical steps can be taken to reduce environmental concerns”, summarises Dr. Franz Hoelker, Head of the Light Pollution and Ecophysiology research group at IGB.


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June 20, 2018 3:51 am

Canada’s Justin Trudeau will be introducing a night-time light-pollution tax any, er, day now.

Reply to  BallBounces
June 20, 2018 5:50 am

But only in winter.

J Mac
Reply to  BallBounces
June 20, 2018 8:05 am

Justin is ‘in the dark’, when it comes to light pollution. It taxes his limited education.

Reply to  BallBounces
June 20, 2018 10:20 am

Oh lord that will be the next thing we will have anti-lighters which will be rebranded CAGW refugees.

Reply to  BallBounces
June 20, 2018 12:45 pm

Save the bugs!

Bob boder
June 20, 2018 4:01 am

i haven’t noticed any real decrease in the number of bugs i have to swat away during my trips outside. Not so sure that a 75% reduction in the biomass of flying bugs is accurate. but i guess that means we shouldn’t have to worry too much about illnesses transmitted by flying bugs, guess all the stories of coming climate related bug borne diseases wiping out humanity are just another thing not to worry about.

Reply to  Bob boder
June 20, 2018 4:50 am

It is most obvious in the UK when you look at your car after a long journey. There are very few splatted bugs compared to the past. That may be due to better aerodynamics but then again the observation looks genuine.

Bryan A
Reply to  Bob boder
June 20, 2018 10:09 am

Of course it could also be due to a behavior modification in their predators. Since the flying insects tend to gather around the light sources at night, their predators (various birds and bats) have learned that easier meals are found around the lamps at night.
And then another mitigating circumstance is that the “Light Pollution” is only a factor inside the urban areas where the environment is less conducive for insects anyway.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Bob boder
June 20, 2018 10:21 am

I have often remarked about the contrast in the abundance of, what are called June Bugs, with what I experienced as a child in Northern Illinois. They would coat the screen door going out onto the deck and be flying around the porch light. I now live in SW Ohio, and I only see them infrequently. They are not quite extinct, but they are nowhere near as abundant as they once were. Something in the food chain must be hurting from their decline.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
June 20, 2018 11:21 am

Still lots of them here in the Pacific NW.

Kalifornia Kook
Reply to  Bob boder
June 20, 2018 1:22 pm

I’m surprised that the widespread use of insecticides used on crops, lakes, and other areas have negligible effect. I had thought we were winning that war via insecticides, but it turns out (especially in first world countries) that it is light pollution. Farmers should be alerted. They can save a lot on crop costs. Or convert from insecticides to light posts. Bonus: the extra light may enhance crop production. I think I’m really on to something! (Or just on something.)

Reply to  Kalifornia Kook
June 20, 2018 2:11 pm

The farmer with the most night lights would attract the most pests. Maybe just turn them on, then spray at first light.

Or set up giant zappers.

June 20, 2018 4:04 am

It is plausible that light pollution upsets bugs.

Mark Tilden has built tiny robots that mimic insect behavior.

The robots are very simple with almost no processing power. They work because sensors and actuators combined with the correct physical setup will accurately reproduce insect behavior. In the presence of a light source his robots will take the same path as a real insect. The takeaway is that bugs are pretty stupid.

Normally bugs work with direct, diffused, or reflected sunlight. If you provide them with something else they can’t cope. For instance, we’ve all seen a moth circling a lamp.

Reply to  commieBob
June 20, 2018 11:04 am

The reason why moths and other nocturnal insect are effected by artificial light sources is because they are using the light source as a navigational beacon and maintain a constant offset angle from the light source. This adaptation has suited them for millennia as they had evolved to navigate using the only source of nighttime illumination since the beginning time…the Moon. Since the moon is essentially at optical infinity, the offset angle does not change as you fly along. An artificial light is far closer (not at optical infinity) and the passing insect, keeping the light source at the desired offset angle, will circle the source ever spiraling inwards.

Reply to  rocketscientist
June 22, 2018 12:24 am

Doesn’t need to be the moon, can be a star or group of stars or, as for the dung beetle, the entire milky way. Any distant object can be used to maintain an arc flat enough to be a good approximation of a straight line. But your explanation shows a much better grasp of the situation than some commenting here.

Reply to  commieBob
June 20, 2018 11:25 am

Moths (Order Lepidoptera) might be stupid, but ants (Order Hymenoptera) aren’t. Ants are descended from flying insects, ie wasps, and their queens still fly temporarily.

Ants are so smart that they pass the self-recognition test. Their brains are tiny, but so are their bodies.

Reply to  Felix
June 20, 2018 11:43 am

Ants are so smart that they pass the self-recognition test.

They can recognize themselves in a mirror? Like dolphins? I’d like to see those test results.


Reply to  Jim Masterson
June 20, 2018 11:54 am

Yup. From 2015:

In this case, an ant tried to remove a blue dot when looking at itself in a mirror. It showed other signs of distinguishing itself from others, as well.

Reply to  Felix
June 20, 2018 12:05 pm

Thanks Felix.


Reply to  Jim Masterson
June 20, 2018 12:18 pm

You’re welcome. It’s hard to believe, I know. But the experiments are convincing to me.

Orions forever!

comment image

Reply to  Felix
June 20, 2018 12:40 pm

Looks like a Charlie with no nose camera. Our Charlies had nose cameras. All four engines seem to be working too (none feathered/loitered).


Reply to  Jim Masterson
June 20, 2018 12:44 pm

Yup. Early P-3C.

Maybe all engines working as it’s still gaining altitude. Photo angle could be misleading.

Reply to  Felix
June 20, 2018 12:55 pm

The flaps look like they’re at the T/O position. Maybe it’s just after T/O and just after retracting gear. These planes are so old, that they don’t like to bounce them.


Reply to  Jim Masterson
June 20, 2018 2:09 pm

Good point.

I believe it about bouncing. Maybe time to revive the cancelled P-7 program.

Reply to  Felix
June 26, 2018 1:00 pm

Small ants have the highest brain:body mass ratio of any known animal:

It’s about 1:7 for them, vs 1:50 for humans (although our weight varies a lot).

In vertebrates, total brain mass matter more than the ratio, but that might not be the case for insects.

Bug brains are organized differently:

Also other invertebrates, like octopi, who have nine brains.

June 20, 2018 4:13 am

The phrase “insect communities” doesn’t make me feel any kind of empathy or compassion for the plight of any insect nests/hives/colonies that might be affected by night lighting. That kind of emotional manipulation doesn’t work on me.

When was the last time an insect species cared about your problems?

Let them evolve or perish!

Reply to  Khwarizmi
June 20, 2018 11:12 am

The issue is that evolution has tailored these creatures to use light sources as navigational aids. The artificial light source has only been around for less than a century (although I assume campfires and torches had a similar effect). It simply that evolution hasn’t had much time to allow for adaptation.
BTW flying insects are not the only wildlife to be adversely effected by artificial light sources. Sea turtle hatchlings will use the moon for determination which direction the ocean lies. Artificial light has been causing hatchlings to become disoriented and travel away from the ocean. Beach houses near hatching sites are asked to turn off their porch lights during hatching seasons.

June 20, 2018 5:06 am

If it gets rid of mosquitoes at night, fine by me.

Reply to  Sara
June 20, 2018 5:32 am

The article is too hand-wavey. Insects. What kinds of insects? Flying insects? What kinds of flying insects? Moths, beetles, and flies. Yes, but what kinds, blast it!? Give us some genus, soecies, and varieties!

But I confess, the LED street-lights, and the mercury vapor are too far toward the UV, and the pink high pressure sodium vapor are just a bit too bright, too. They give you a bit of glare, destroy your night vision, and then you are driving or walking through the too dark areas between, which are worse than before the lights were installed. The low pressure sodium, which look kind of orange, to me, rather than the yellow my text-books claim, are not too bad, and, with their narrow frequency band, the astronomers can work around them.

Yes, I’m one of those cranks who grumps to the commissioners, the guys at the state DoT I run across at the book-store cafe, the crew supervisors I run across as I’m walking through, and occasionally to the mostly brain-dead state and federal congress-critters.

Reply to  mib8
June 20, 2018 6:03 am

This reply wound up in the wrong place.

The failure of wind and solar isn’t due to the cost. It’s due the 20-30% capacity factors. It takes 3-4 MW of solar or wind to cut the same volume of carbon emissions as 1 MW of nuclear power. The reduction of capacity costs doesn’t affect the reduction of emissions. Relative to coal, nuclear and natural gas reduce far more carbon emissions per MW of capacity than solar or wind do.

comment image

With nuclear it’s a 100% reduction. Natural gas is about 50%.

On a capacity-factor basis:

Solar 0.25 * 1.00 = 0.25
Wind 0.33 * 1.00 = 0.33
Natural gas 0.87 * 0.50 = 0.435
Nuclear 0.95 * 1.00 = 0.95

Reply to  David Middleton
June 20, 2018 6:54 am

The biggest problem with the low capacity is that you need something else when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.
So you build 3 to 4 times the capacity of renewable, you build a fossil fuel plant big enough to shoulder the entire load for those many times when the renewables aren’t producing AND you build a bank of batteries to provide enough power to allow your fossil fuel plants to ramp up to full power when the renewables unexpectedly kick out.

Or you could just build the fossil fuel plant and be done with it.

Reply to  MarkW
June 20, 2018 7:06 am

That comment was supposed to go to another thread.

Reply to  MarkW
June 20, 2018 8:25 am

We no longer need capacity when the sun don’t shine. Our heartfelt concern for insect communities means we must sacrifice our night to the darkness. Here’s to hugs for happy bugs!

Reply to  mib8
June 20, 2018 8:54 am

LED streetlights produce essentially no UV. They are more specialized in producing visible light than all prior streetlight technologies. My main complaint about LED streetlights is that their greater efficiency is usually used more to increase light output and less to decrease energy consumption than should be done.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  mib8
June 20, 2018 10:28 am

You said, “The low pressure sodium, which look kind of orange, to me, rather than the yellow my text-books claim, are not too bad,…”
I find that when driving in the rain under low-pressure sodium lights, I lose the ability to see the yellow lane markers. The glare from the water is about the same color as the yellow paint. That is less than a small problem in my book.

June 20, 2018 5:25 am

Why do the liberal left/socialists prefer things that we should consider as being bad for Humanity ? ( frozen wastelands, energy poverty in Africa, MS13, illegal aliens, communist dictators, rioting in the streets..etc…..

June 20, 2018 5:25 am

Perhaps the bugs are smarter than the scientists studying them? It could be that the bugs are avoiding the light traps the scientists are using to trap and count them?…. Maybe the bugs have adapted to avoid artificial light? So I hope they used several different methods for collecting representative population samples.

June 20, 2018 5:26 am

If Germany is short of bugs I’m sure Scotland could beneficially give them a few.

Reply to  Tim.
June 20, 2018 5:30 am


Oh yes!

Neil Jordan
Reply to  Tim.
June 20, 2018 10:17 am

And I’ll send them some of the ants that are infesting my kitchen.

June 20, 2018 5:41 am

Where is ‘Climate Change’ in this study? It can clearly not have been done by real scientists!

June 20, 2018 5:45 am

So there should be a BIG difference between North and South Korea.

Reply to  Robertvd
June 20, 2018 6:13 am

This experiment should be easy to control. You brought up N vs S Korea. Other controls could be the Outback vs Coastal Australia, the Amazon vs Rio or other large Brazilian cities, the desert vs the Nile Valley in Egypt, the Everglades vs Miami or Orlando in FL…

If someone told me that worldwide that 75% of insect biomass has disappeared, I would be skeptical. If someone told me that 75% of the insect biomass disappeared in places where insecticide was sprayed, which also happens to be where most artificial lights are placed, I’d be less skeptical.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  DonK31
June 20, 2018 8:06 pm

I don’t believe they are claiming world population decline.

And as you point out, the difference between city, town, country insect counts should make it very obvious whether their theory has any validity. Ideally you want similar soil, grass and tree cover, so Coastal Australia and Outback are not valid comparisons. Very different insect communities.

June 20, 2018 5:48 am

Only artificial light? So 24 hours of light in the Arctic zone is no problem.

Reply to  Robertvd
June 20, 2018 5:57 am

Funny.. the mosquitoes and flies can overwhelm you.

Reply to  Robertvd
June 20, 2018 6:01 am

Having done military service at 70 deg. northern latitude, I can attest to this..

Sam C Cogar
Reply to  Robertvd
June 20, 2018 6:16 am

So there should be a BIG difference between North and South Korea.

Only artificial light? So 24 hours of light in the Arctic zone is no problem.

And I vote that ….. Robertvd ….. win the 1st Place Prize for the bestest comments posted in response to the above ommentary.

Reply to  Robertvd
June 20, 2018 10:23 am

You missing the point it’s man made light so it’s never as good as natural and always dangerous.

Reply to  LdB
June 20, 2018 11:20 am

The point is that a close light like a porch light is not suitable to navigate by like a distant star. Night bugs are not attracted to light, rather it causes them to fly in a death spiral as they orientate themselves by the light. Anybody who has peeled themslves away from their tv long enough to actually observe night life could see this.

Sam C Cogar
Reply to  BCBill
June 20, 2018 11:38 am

So sayith did BCBill: “Night bugs are not attracted to light, …

Bill, have you told the Fireflies (lightning bugs) about that?

There are many wonders to behold in the animal world, but few offer such enchantment as that of a summer evening punctuated with the twinkle of fireflies. It’s a singular experience, like handfuls of Lilliputian stars tossed from the sky, falling to flit and hover among the grass and brambles. But behind their charming facade, fireflies are fascinating little insects. .

Reply to  Sam C Cogar
June 21, 2018 10:49 pm

Fireflies aren’t attracted to light in general, they are attracted to flashing patterns, synchronous blinking, blinking accompanied by pheromones, etc. They aren’t attracted to lights but fly to them nonetheless.

Kalifornia Kook
Reply to  BCBill
June 20, 2018 1:44 pm

BCBill: I see the problem now. The light makes them all fly to the east. Eventually they get to the Atlantic, run out of energy, spiral down, and drown.

I live on the West Coast, so even if I tore myself away from the TV, I wouldn’t see this death spiral. Where do we get all our insects? Probably all those damn farmers import them so they have a reason to use insecticides on the crops.

From Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
Definition of orientate
orientated; orientating
intransitive verb
: to face or turn to the east

I know. I’m a long-winded pedant. You meant ‘orient’, right?

Reply to  Kalifornia Kook
June 21, 2018 10:22 pm

Yes. I have known this for many years and still get it wrong.

Reply to  Kalifornia Kook
June 21, 2018 10:38 pm

As for the rest of the comment,if you walk with a distant landmark steadily in the same position relative to your body, the large radius will cause an arc that is close enough to a straight line for bug distances. Try to fly a straight line by the porch light 20 ft away and you end up in the light. Though l presume you got that, you were just waxing poetic over “orientate”. Maybe I will never forget again. Thanks.

June 20, 2018 6:33 am

“Scientists from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) have now discovered that regions that have experienced a sharp decline in flying insects also have high levels of light pollution.”

I stopped reading this article right there.

Gross coincidences are promoted to correlations that allow gross assumptions about causation… One wonders why researchers wearing pants is not also included amongst the causes.

They could “test” their supposition by installing floodlights where light pollution is minimal. Then diligently check insect populations.

Served as Assistant Scoutmaster for my son’s troop. Which meant I attended many camping trips.

Late at night is when Scoutmasters and their assistants get to have a quiet moment. On one camping trip, we camped overlooking a large parking lot illumined by a tall bright flood light.

Yes, that light attracted clouds of insects. Which attracted insect predators, including night hawks that we watched dive through the top part of the insect swarm.

I also saw the same behavior while camping at the Royal Peacock Opal mine in Nevada. Fortunately, the owner did not leave the light burning all night, allowing excellent sky visibility.

Reply to  ATheoK
June 20, 2018 11:44 am

Well, the windmills and solar panels are helping the insects by killing off birds and bats which otherwise would have eaten the bugs.

Reply to  ATheoK
June 20, 2018 11:53 am

Similar story.

*perpetual circling mass of bugs at flood lights on 24′ pole (miles away from any other lighting source)

*bats taking advantage of the bugs

*pygmy owl hovering against the light wind waiting for the bats, and doing a quick dive bomb.

*(very rarely) the great big owl doing a fly by, trying to sneak up on the little owl.

The hovering owls are pretty cool to watch.

June 20, 2018 6:44 am

I have the answer but their not going to pay me the big bucks for it. I have done trap shooting at night and the fields are lit by street lights directed at the field. At first you see a large cloud of insects gather around the light. A little latter the bats show up for dinner and it’s quite entertaining to watch the bats attempt to clean up the insect cloud. The cloud remains pretty constant all night so I suspect the bats are getting their fill with insects left to spare.

Walter Sobchak
June 20, 2018 6:45 am

“The biomass of flying insects has decreased by more than 75 per cent”

The best news I have read in a very long while.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
June 20, 2018 10:37 am

Most insects that humans are aware of (a small minority of the total) are generally not appreciated. However, they play a role in a much bigger picture that typically is not understood. If we were to eliminate all mosquitoes, I imagine that fisherman would be the first to complain.

June 20, 2018 7:25 am

I think most of the readers do not know the political background of the study and the claim. Both come from Germany. The original study that claimed a 75% decline in biomass of flying insects somewhere in Germany started a political bully parade of green politicians against the use of pesticides, although there was no direct link between pesticides and insect death, i.e. the use of pesticides in Germany has been quite constant for more than 25 years. In the same time 50% of the insects should have disappeared according to this study.

The very reason why politicians tried to link pesticides with that mysterious decline was that at the same time there was a political decision pending in Europe whether Monsanto’s Roundup (Glyphosate) and some other pesticides should be banned. The German secretary for environment and the German EPA as well immediately used the insect mass extinction to blame it on Monsanto and other pesticide manufacturers. That was it on one side of the issue.

On the other side there were unpolitical scientists who said :
1. there is no direct link between pesticides & such dramtic extinction events
2. The study has major statistical issues (varying locations, missing data over time, too low sample sizes etc. …
3. There are many other potential reasons for a population decline that might be real although the study wasn’t carried out properly

One of those other reasons is the artificial light especially in some frequency band of most LED lamps that attracts the insects and let them get eaten there by other animals. This effect is well documented in many studies.

So no big deal! This “light pollution” thing is no bully parade but just an explanation that with artificial light you prepare the meal for enemies of insects. The solution is quite easy. If you want to do something against insect decline just use other street lamps. Banning Roundup which is not done yet but which will be done in a not too distant future in Europe has zero effect on insects but it makes green politicians look like winners in a battle against the evil. Whereas banning LED street lamps makes them look like idiots because they introduced it to save enegry in the battle against the other big evil, CO2.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Paulclim
June 20, 2018 7:58 am

Just in case someone does not know:
Roundup (Glyphosate) is a herbicide.

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
June 20, 2018 3:02 pm

The common insecticides Malathion and Parathion are organophosphates, cholinesterase inhibitors akin to military nerve agents.

Reply to  Paulclim
June 20, 2018 8:59 am

LED streetlights can be made with almost any kind of spectrum, in any color. They don’t need to be banned. What about metal halide lamps with a blue spike at the same wavelength of the blue spike in most current LED streetlights, the metal halide ones with indium – ban them also? I think what should be done is use the increased efficiency of LED streetlights to reduce energy consumption, instead of mostly to get more light as is being done now (at least in most of the US).

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Donald L. Klipstein
June 20, 2018 10:47 am

Personally, I see little real need for street lights They are typically so bright that one observes people driving with their headlights off, and they don’t even realize it. Street lights became popular before people had the convenience of flashlights (“torches” for those of you across the pond). Now, with LED flashlights with their extended battery life, it seems to me that there is little excuse or need for most of the street lights. Eliminating them would make astronomers happy, children could once again delight in the constellations and even see the Milky Way, and the night-time predator/prey relationship would be reestablished. And those unobservant drivers would get immediate feedback that they need to turn on their headlights.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
June 20, 2018 2:01 pm

Trust me, if you drive a lot in congested areas, the exits off state and national highways can be perilous to navigate when the street lights are off, as they frequently are (foolish energy conservation at the expense of safety). It can be difficult to judge the rate-of-turn and speed necessary to negotiate the exit when your headlights are illuminating a tangent to the curve and not the whole pathway.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
June 20, 2018 2:07 pm

Before streetlights, the streets weren’t safe at night from armed robbers, among other threats.

I guess we could all carry big metal flashlights as weapons.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Felix
June 21, 2018 10:26 am

In California, batons and night sticks are banned and it is a felony to have one in your car. So, most cops recommend carrying a large Maglite under the driver’s seat.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
June 21, 2018 4:53 pm

You can do a lot of damage with the 6 D-cell model.

Wim Röst
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
June 20, 2018 3:17 pm

Clyde Spencer: “Personally, I see little real need for street lights”

WR: Clyde, having travelled over many parts of the world (nearly all continents), I discovered that one of the main advantages of my country (the Netherlands, Europe) was its safety, also its safety during the night. And, during the night, light is one of the things that assures safety the most, for children, women and man. As you know, in Europe and especially in flat countries like Danmark and the Netherlands much people transport themselves by bike: in the centre of a city like Amsterdam some 80% or so of the people transport themselves by bike. Also during the night. Transport by bike is safe with light, much less safe without light.

For that (safety), I would support research to find out which kind (!) of light attracts and confuses insects. I notice that the disappearance of insects is rather recent, while ‘artificial light’ isn’t. But new kinds of light are. So, I think we could find ‘insect friendly illumination’ without sacrificing our personal safity.

Reply to  Wim Röst
June 20, 2018 7:03 pm

When I was in my 20’s I could almost see in the dark.
Now that I’m in my 50’s, reactions are slowed and night vision is nearly nonexistent, just an fyi for any fellow travelers.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Wim Röst
June 21, 2018 10:38 am

Bug Zappers use long-wave UV to attract flying insects at night. I have found that using a short-wave UV at night to look for fluorescent minerals also attracts flying insects — and also moth predators like sun spiders looking for an easy meal.

I will agree that there are times and places where public lighting is appropriate and useful. However, I think that it becomes an unthinking response by builders to put lights everywhere, whether really needed or not. However, the concern for safety may be robbing us of unappreciated experiences. When I was in New Zealand on vacation, I discovered that a local group of cavers (spelunkers) had a cabin about a mile up the road from the hotel I was staying at. I did not have a flashlight or a car. So, I set out on foot in the dark to find the cabin. To my surprise and delight, I discovered that glow worms don’t just live in caves, but inhabit the bushes above ground as well! I also saw the Southern Cross in the sky. Had the road been lighted, I probably would have seen neither. We sometimes pay a penalty for safety in the form of a reduced appreciation for the world we inhabit.

Sweet Old Bob
Reply to  Paulclim
June 20, 2018 10:34 am

Hope they hurry up on that Roundup ban ….US farmers will be happy to fill the void …
and hungry people ” eat ” politicians …

Wim Röst
Reply to  Paulclim
June 20, 2018 2:57 pm

Great comment!

Wim Röst
Reply to  Wim Röst
June 21, 2018 1:36 pm

This compliment was meant for the comment of Paulclim (June 20, 2018 7:25 am) above.

Reply to  Wim Röst
June 22, 2018 11:10 am

Thanks Wim. Greetings to Holland. Will be there in 2 weeks again

Tom Abbott
June 20, 2018 7:47 am

Maybe it’s all those German windmills stressing the insects. 🙂

Reply to  Tom Abbott
June 20, 2018 1:47 pm

Or maybe it is the green nonsense. insect populations were starting to decline when the Greens entered parliament. Now that 75% of the parliament is brainwashed to green ideology we see a 75% decrease in insects. Seems as if insects were more intelligent than politicians.

Reply to  Paulclim
June 21, 2018 7:13 am

Haven’t the greens been encouraging people to eat bugs?
Perhaps that’s where the missing insects went?

June 20, 2018 8:21 am

Solar power is the solution- there will be no light at night! Nor any heat, A/C (not that you see much of that in Deutschland), refrigeration, Etc….

June 20, 2018 8:26 am

Normally I’d laugh at something like this, but it does make sense. After all, there’s been virtually no wide usage of artificial light by society until the past decade or so, and the agricultural areas are so brilliantly lit up now that — that …

Wait a minute!

Steven Zell
June 20, 2018 8:29 am

If this study is accurate, people should set up artificial lights around the edges of ponds and swamps to reduce the mosquito population and the transmission of disease.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Steven Zell
June 20, 2018 10:49 am

Are mosquitoes attracted to light?

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
June 20, 2018 2:02 pm

Alas, not readily. Heat and CO2 are their homing beacons.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
June 21, 2018 10:41 am

That is what I thought, and why I asked.

June 20, 2018 8:41 am

Adapt or die. Bugs have only been around 450,000,000 years.

Ed Zuiderwijk
June 20, 2018 8:50 am

North Korea must be a bug’s paradise.

don k
June 20, 2018 9:01 am

Just because n one has mentioned it, there is a real, well documented, problem called Colony Collapse Disorder that affects European Honeybees that are widely used to pollinate many crops Honeybees of course are non-nocturnal (diurnal) and presumably are not affected much or at all by artificial lighting. The cause(s) of CCD are not well understood but it is the cause of much grief for beekeepers./

Reply to  don k
June 20, 2018 2:08 pm

No this is not a problem anymore (and in fact it never was a manmade issue) although green activists are repeating it endlessly. The global honey bees are doing pretty well. Their population is at an all time high. CCD was a pure natural thing where mites killed the bees.

Here is a ton of data against the CCD fear mongering

Or check the population data directly

Bruce Hall
June 20, 2018 9:23 am

If you live along a lake, you probably have not noticed any decrease in flying insects at night. Even yellow light bulbs don’t prevent the house from being covered by them.

June 20, 2018 9:24 am

I went to Sand Lake, to the north of me, about a week and a half ago. It is part of a wetland area, and is a popular fishing spot, open from sunrise to 8PM in the summer, or 5PM/sunset in the winter.

I can attest to the fact that there is NO DIMINISHING in the population of mosquitoes and other annoying insects and the dragonflies were out just as early as I was, having a whale of a time snagging those whining bugs on the wing.

I can also attest to the fact that bugs love night lights because they are rather dimwitted things, and that attracts feeders like bats and night birds of all sorts as other people have observed here, because they’re all out there flapping around when I’m trying to get shots of the Moon from my front steps.

The uninformed people who think it’s all about lights at night should try spending some time in farmland and wetlands and other bug territories at night. I realize that they don’t get out much, but that’s their problem. If they had done their “study” in the late autumn, when six-leggers die back and hibernate, and found nothing, would they also think that it’s a mass extinction and we have to DO SOMETHING? I’ll bet they’d think a syrphid fly that resembles a bumblebee was a mutant of some kind.

I’ve had cave crickets (strange critters) turn up in my bathtub because it got cold early and they were looking for a warm spot. (NOT IN MY BATHROOM! OUT!!)

I hope someone, some day, explains the stupidity of some of this nonsense to me. I have a hard time understanding it.

Reply to  Sara
June 24, 2018 3:02 pm

I’m still ashamed of myself, but unless you’ve stood on a dock on the shore of Rainy Lake with a few fellow inebriates, trying to hit the dragonflies patrolling the shoreline with a boat oar as a bat and the targets doing their best impression of a knuckleball, you haven’t lived.
(this was about 34 years ago).

June 20, 2018 9:34 am

bugs hate light at night
especially the zapper ones……
our Maine state bird, the blackfly, would go wherever needed if people need insects.
also, our Maine state animal, the blackfly, would travel too.
I have not checked but I believe our Maine state fish, the blackfly, would also go if needed.
the only holdout is that bastard of Maine, the mosquito. they say screw everyone.

June 20, 2018 9:41 am

Is this claim of 75% loss of insect biomass in Germany also found elsewhere in the world? If so, it is a serious problem for the environment, a much bigger problem than CO2. It makes sense that light pollution can be devastating to nocturnal insects, and this can have serious ramifications for the environment as a whole — and it is no joke.

If further study bears this out we should look for a simple solution to removing as much of that pollution as possible.

Reply to  TDBraun
June 21, 2018 3:15 pm

Yes, but not this dramatic. A much better study from a statistical point of view comes from UK (Rothamsted) and it also sees some decline.

But again, as long as we do not have reliable long term data with a sufficient area coverage this means nothing.

June 20, 2018 10:29 am

Apparently Dr. Franz Hoelker has never gone outside at night where there are street lights. Every light source outside at night is surrounded by clouds of flying insects. If the bats don’t eat them hundreds of them die from exhaustion or contact with the light, littering the ground.

“….changes of climate and habitat are to blame for the decline in insect populations.” Well, ‘duh. You don’t find earthworms climbing trees. Grasshoppers don’t live in trees. Bees don’t touch wind pollinated flowers. But his paper is about Light and insects. Climate and habitat really don’t enter in to it

“….areas in conurbations that have a higher than average level of light pollution.” Large cities are almost by definition highly modified habitats. For some reason many people like to like in large cities with lots of roads, lots of lights at night, small amounts of open ground, and very little dirt farming. I think there is no argument that cities are different than farms, but he immediately goes there, implicity linking lights in cities with lights in farming areas.

We live in a semi-rural area with farms nearby, city streets, street lights and all the accoutrements. I haven’t seen any noticeable change in the number of bugs.

Fortunately it seems the data isn’t good enough to suggest a model for how light affects insect biomass and insect responses to artificial light. I know it’s taken over 60 years to get a good model of how the human retina responds to light of varying frequencies. It may be awhile before we get a good insect model.

Peta of Newark
June 20, 2018 11:23 am

I’ve gotta be missing something here….

What is a ‘selected protected agricultural landscape’ Selected on what criteria? Protected from what? Arable or animal agriculture?

What sort of light pollution do you get in rural/agricultural areas?
How is a light-based insect trap gonna attract anything in an urban area with street-lights shining all around?
How are the insects gonna pollinate anything at night – don’t they use reflected/filtered sunlight to find their targets. Don’t many plants close their flowers at night?

Has the agriculture in the selected areas changed? Livestock farms are typically fizzing with flying critters. I know. I used to own, manage and run one.

What was protected – not bats by any chance. Don’t bats eat flying critters. At night.
Are not 20% of all mammals on Planet Earth = bats?

What about insecticides? They have changed drastically over the last few decades from organo-phosphorus compounds to synthetic pyrethroids and neo-niconoids (sp?)
They are gobsmackingly more toxic to insect critters – easily 10,000 times on a weight for weight basis.

By example I used stuff called Spot-On to protect my cows from flies. It cost £90 per litre and comprised 99% baby oil with 1% of stuff called (I think) Deltamethrin
A single 10cc shot of Spot-On, applied on the cow’s back between her shoulder blades would protect her from flies for at least 6 weeks. Out-of-doors in all and any weather.
If any flying biting, stinging or blood sucking critter just so much as landed on the treated cow, that was The Very Last Thing that that critter ever did.
What was the lethal dose rate for that stuff – it had to be a dozen or so molecules.

That stuff is also used on arable crops and often to treat aphids.
And the neo-nics are even more toxic.

As I recall from somewhere, if you had just two sexual able aphids in early spring-time, gave them an unlimited food supply and no predation, 6 or 7 months later at the onset of winter the bio-mass of aphids produced by those 2 would exceed the entire mass of Planet Earth.
And these folks are concerned about flying critters decline of 75%!!!!!

Which is the bigger threat to human civilisation – Paranoia, Ivory Towerism or the Magical Thought Bubble?
And this lot display all three

Joel Snider
June 20, 2018 12:19 pm

So, I guess we’ll have to get rid of lights now, too.

Reply to  Joel Snider
June 20, 2018 12:28 pm

Lower CO2 emissions!

Richard Patton
June 20, 2018 12:57 pm

Since bugs outnumber us a trillion to one, I am not concerned.

Alan Tomalty
June 20, 2018 2:32 pm

At least they didn’t accuse Mr CO2

Patrick MJD
June 20, 2018 5:14 pm

“Many studies already suggest that artificial light at night has negative impacts on insects, and scientists should pay greater attention to this factor when exploring the causes of insect population declines in the future.”

So? What about the positive impacts on HUMAN populations? There is more biomass in the form or insects on this rock than all of humanity and our technology put together, they have been on this rock longer than we have, I can confidently say, they will be fine.

Move along, nothing to see here!

John Miller
June 20, 2018 6:55 pm

Pesticide use is another major reason -ever since we stopped putting them on our lawn, the fireflies have come back strong.

June 21, 2018 1:54 am

well lights an issue but FAR less than damned chemicals are.
im rural with no streetlights close nearest would be half mile..
living on land thats had not one chem used on it for over 30yrs
I am delighted to see the very rare grasshopper or mantis. at night in summer with no screens doors n windows open I might get 6 moths round the light as i read.
what i am surrounded by is farmland…with the stink of some of the sprays lingering from sunset and all night n day all too often as it drifts miles at ground level in aircurrents.
i’ll use flyspray in the kitchen and a run of surface spray round doorframes to deter entry and thats it.
the external house siding and anywhere else is free to accumulate spiders n webs as and when they take up residence.
majority of folks in town spend 100$ getting entire yards n homes sprayed yearly or more often as well as dousing garden liberally with anything they see advertised.
i have many frogs n worms as well as dung beetles but stuff all normally seen insects.

June 22, 2018 10:41 am

I have always been opposed to dusk-dawn lights that I can’t control. Now I have a reason!

June 24, 2018 8:33 am

” Also, changes in the occurrence and behaviour of pests such as aphids or their enemies such as beetles and spiders can disturb the balance of this well-tuned system.”
Goodness ! ANOTHER well-tuned system THAT MANKIND ( or should that be MAN-UN-KIND )
is fouling up. Have you ever driven through the WHEAT FIELDS at night and seen ALL THOSE
STREET-LIGHTS that those careless farmers leave burning all night ??
“Additionally, rows of light prevent flying insects from spreading; causing a lack of genetic exchange within fragmented insect populations that could reduce their resistance to other negative environmental influences, which are especially pronounced in agrarian areas.”
“Furthermore, artificial light at night may also have a direct impact on the growth and flowering time of plants, and therefore on yield.”
Funny though………….the Tomatoes and the Marihuana are doing nicely !!

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