Moths And Light (Attraction, Navigation, and More)

Moths are nocturnal insects and questions about their connection with light are quite common. Even though they start flying in the night, it is known they always seek the light and they fly towards it. However, you might notice that they fly toward different sources of light, and this raises the question of the kind of light they are attracted to.

Most moths start their daily routine during the night considering they are nocturnal creatures and they avoid predators during the day. However, they can move through space due to their attraction to light. The method in which moths are guided by light is called transverse orientation.

This article is mainly focused on the ways in which moths move, i.e. follow the light. You will read thorough explanations about the moth orientation toward different kinds of light. Here, you will also read about common misinterpretations that are related to moths and their attraction to light, and the reasons why they are, in fact, not correct.

Do Moths Fly Towards The Sun?

Even though moths use light for navigation, they do not actually fly towards the sun. Moths that function during the day, i.e. the diurnal species of moths, use the sun as a way of navigation, but they do not actually go in its direction. The sun is greatly distanced from Earth, therefore, moths use it as a guideline through space.

Since the sun is quite far away from the Earth, the moths see the source of its light and consider it as a parallel for their vision. Therefore, they do not fly towards the sun, but they follow the parallel of the light that the sun provides. When the source of light is farther than the moths, these insects have the ability to navigate better and move around easier.

Do Moths Fly Towards The Moon?

Moths that seem to fly towards the moon are actually nocturnal species of moths that use the light from the moon to guide their way. They do not go in the direction of the moon since there is a huge distance between the Earth and the moths themselves.

However, this distance is the factor that enables the moths to orientate in space and be able to do their routines.

The light that the moon provides on Earth is an aid to moths to be able to move. This method of moths moving around in space is called transverse orientation. This is similar to the notion of people following the north star when trying to orientate in space. In the same manner, moths use the moonlight as a navigation point to travel around.

Do Moths Die Without Light?

It cannot be said that moths cannot live without light since light is not their main source of life. However, the light is their guide for movement, so it can be assumed that moths are in some way dependent on it. If they cannot move and travel around, they will not be able to find food, shelter, or mating partners, meaning that in a way, their lifespan will depend on the aid of light.

If you have noticed how moths fly around the area where there is light, then you have probably assumed that they cannot without it. If we base everything on pure biology, then moths do not strictly need light to survive, but it aids their movement. That is why you can usually see moths around lamps and other artificial lights.

Experiments with painted eyes of moths have shown great confusion in their movement and lack of orientation. This research confirms their great need for lights.

The occurrence of moths and artificial lamps comes from the moths’ confusion about natural and artificial light. Since lightbulbs were invented moths have been mistaking the moonlight with light that comes artificially. That is why you have noticed that many moths travel around artificial lights, such as lamps and lightbulbs, and many times they can seem trapped in the light.

Do Moths Die When They Touch The Light?

It is a common occurrence that moths get trapped in light, especially in the ceiling lights that are found in people’s homes. Once they get inside of it, they usually do not come out, meaning the end result is the end of their life. However, light is not what actually kills them since they do not die instantly once they are “trapped”.

Scientifically explained, it is believed that moths get exhausted from all the circling around the lightbulbs.

The constant circling around the lightbulb is believed to get them tired and makes them lose orientation. Once they lose orientation, they get confused and they do not see a possibility to get out.

Ever wondered, How Long Can a Moth Survive in a House?

They circle for quite a long time before they really die. This means that they do not know in which direction to fly away, so they just give up.

Classical light bulbs extract heat more than light and will be an additional factor that reduces the life span of a trapped moth. It could be even hot enough to hurt the moth significantly.

Can moths feel pain? Feelings of a Moth (and why Brain Size matters) has the answer.

Do Moths Come Out In Summer?

Although there seems to be more light in summer, this does not affect the appearance of moths, in general. What really happens is that summer is a more suitable season for finding food and other survival necessities. This is a common cause for most insects, not only moths, so that is why you see more flying creatures during the summer season.

Moths rely on heat for survival and activity, so you should rarely expect to see them in winter. In the winter season, moths enter into a dormant stage, for these insect species known as a larval stage. The dormancy is not the same as hibernation since insects do not hibernate during winter.

As you could see, moths are closely connected to light, and their survival is indirectly dependent on light, even though it is not their prime factor for surviving. It is important to remember that moths use light as a guide for movement through space, and without it they lose orientation for traveling around.

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