Ever notice if you're outside checking your phone at night that flying insects start coming over to you and bumping into the bright screen? Many bugs are attracted to light, and thanks to that fact, devices like bug zappers can work. However, the reason why bugs are attracted to light isn't entirely known. Scientists do have a few theories that can help to explain why some bugs will fly towards sources of light, but no one theory is a perfect fit for every insect.
One of the first theories on why some insects are attracted to light is that they use moonlight for navigation, so they see the human-made light and use it for navigation. They confuse the light bulb or smartphone screen for the moon, and this causes them to change the direction they are going in.
Another theory is that flying bugs are looking for a clear path forward, so they follow a light source because that means there is nothing in their way. They wouldn't be able to sense the light if something blocked it from them. Then, they can fly without obstacles.
Nothing Attracts a Crowd Like a Crowd
Yet another theory is that a light source is busy because the insects that notice it see other insects around. They are looking to meet others in their species to mate. Your porch light becomes the local meeting spot for flying insects.
Most light bulbs give off heat, so on a chilly night, it's theorized that bugs are attracted to the heat that the bulb is giving off rather than the light itself. These insects are warming up by flying by these sources of heat.
Flowers and UV Light
Researchers are starting to think that flowers reflect UV light and that this reflected light seeks to attract pollinators, such as insects. So, another theory is that the bugs flying towards a light source are thinking that they are flying towards a food source instead of just being attracted to the light itself.
This particular theory comes from research from back in the 1970’s that found that female moths use pheromones that attract male moths to them. These pheromones have frequencies in common with a candle flame. In a manner that's similar to the reflective UV nature of flowers, male moths may be dive-bombing flames and other sources of light because they believe they are going to find their female counterpart.
We may never completely understand why some bugs fly towards a light source. It's possible that one insect may be attracted to your porch light for one reason when another bug has a different reason why they can't keep away from a bug zapper.
Do you have an insect problem in or around your home? Contact us at Thomas Pest Control to learn more about our mosquito and other pest treatment options. Be comfortable this summer without the annoying buzz of mosquitoes and other insects.