Have you ever wondered why that moth that accidentally got into your house last night keeps buzzing around the ceiling light or why lighted mosquito traps work so well? While some have always said that the answer is because insects are somehow attracted to artificial lights. Now, though, new research says it doesn’t have anything to do with their attraction to light. Instead, it’s probably because they are being trapped by it.
Samuel Fabian, a researcher with Imperial College London and one of the authors of a new paper currently on the bioRxiv preprint server, says that the connection between insects and light is now believed to have something to do with their body’s control systems.
The researchers discovered that insects are attracted to light in three ways. If the insects were to fly above it they would flip upside down, and then plummet, as they attempted to fly upside-down. Second, when they fly under the light they start to climb at an angle and then stall before falling.
Finally, the researchers found that the insects fly at right angles to the light, circling them or “orbiting” the light instead of flying straight at it. While it might appear that the insects are flying directly at the light, it’s actually believed that the body’s control systems are being interfered with somehow, causing them to experience these effects.
It is believed that insects experience what’s called “dorsal response”, because they always try to face the light when they are near it. The same reflex can be seen in fish. It is basically a way that animals determine the direction they are facing and maintain their body upright. Often, this experience works well. However, at dusk and dawn, insects can experience problems with it.
The researchers believe that the way that insects rely on the dorsal light response can determine how they respond to light. So, the issue here isn’t why insects’ attraction to light drives them to it. Scientists believe that insects lose control of their movements when they approach the light. It’s an intriguing bit of research that could help explain some important things about the various types of insects found around the world.
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