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Street lights could be turned off for a part of the night only to help moths

Posted January 27, 2019

Human activity is disturbing the wildlife – that’s not a secret to anyone. Street lighting may seem innocent, but it does distract moths, who are very important pollinators. Scientists from the universities of York and Newcastle are now saying that turning off street lighting just for a part of the night could restore the natural behaviour of moths.

Street lights are driving moths upwards away from the plants that they are supposed to be pollinating. Image credit: bigwavephoto via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Moths pollinate plants in a way substituting work of bees. As you may know, numbers of bees are rapidly declining due to various diseases and human activity, including growing cities and intensified agricultural practices. In this context, the role of moths is even more important. However, they are being driven upwards, because street lights are attracting them.

Walking late at night you may notice clouds of insects revolving around each street light and moths are involved in this mess as well. However, getting rid of street lights completely is simply not a viable solution and it shouldn’t be – it wouldn’t be safe. But there is a compromise.

Scientists conducted a study and found that there is no difference in moths’ pollination success between part-night lighting and full darkness. In other words, there is no need to turn street lights off for the entire night. Furthermore, turning off street lights after midnight has other benefits as well. For example, local government could save some money and people, who live close to these light sources could sleep better.

Reduced light pollution would be beneficial to other creatures that live in the urban environment as well. And, finally, reduced energy consumption would shrink the environmental impact of city services. Cities are already trying to reduce their energy consumption by using LED lights, but that has little to no positive effect on moths.

But, of course, people will have concerns about safety if street lights will be turned off for a part of the night. This is all about finding a compromise and different areas in the city would probably require different solutions.

Dr Darren Evans, supervisor of the study, said: “We know that light pollution significantly alters moth activity and this in turn is disrupting their role as pollinators. But what our study showed was that while full-night lighting caused significant ecological disruption, part-night lighting did not appear to have any strong effect on pollination success or quality”.

Pollinators are extremely important for the entire ecosystem. You like flowers, trees, vegetables and fruit, don’t you? Well, for the most part, you should be thankful for pollinators for those gifts.

Source: University of York


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