Light pollution, according to scientists, may be leading to “alarming” insect decreases in recent decades. Artificial street lights were found to disrupt the behaviour of nocturnal moths in a UK study, resulting in a 50% reduction in caterpillar numbers.
The impact of modern LED streetlights appeared to be the greatest. Insect populations are shrinking as a result of factors such as climate change, habitat loss, and pesticide use.
Another driver of insect reduction has been proposed: the use of artificial lights at night, though the magnitude of this effect is unknown.
The researchers claim that their study, which was published in Science Advances, is the most conclusive evidence yet that light pollution can harm local insect populations, with implications for birds and other wildlife that rely on caterpillars for food.
“We can now be quite confident that light pollution is important in a local setting,” said lead researcher Douglas Boyes of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. “However, it’s less clear if we’re looking at a whole landscape.”
“Perhaps we should be doing everything we can to lessen these negative consequences if insects are in jeopardy, as we feel they are and have evidence to back it up.”
Street lights, according to the researchers, may hinder nocturnal moths from depositing their eggs or put them at risk of being seen and eaten by predators such as bats.
Caterpillars born beneath streetlights, particularly LEDs, change their feeding patterns as a result.
Lighting setups were set up in fields in a second experiment. They discovered a decrease in caterpillars under LED lighting, implying a change in eating behaviour.
Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the extinction of some insect populations.
Bees, ants, and beetles, according to the study, are vanishing eight times quicker than mammals, birds, or reptiles, while other species such as houseflies and cockroaches are expected to thrive.
Insect extinction has far-reaching implications for entire ecosystems.
Many birds, amphibians, bats, and reptiles feed on insects, while plants rely on insects for pollination.