Turning off street lights can boost pollination


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The role of moths as pollinators is often underrated (flickr).

Julia Poska| January 24, 2019

It’s common knowledge that moths are drawn to light; look up at any street lamp on a summer night and you’ll see for yourself. New research suggests that turning off those lights for just a few hours a night could not only save moths from accidental suicide, but boost local pollination as well.

According to the study, published this week in Ecosphere, nocturnal moths should naturally supplement the work of better-known pollinators like bees and butterflies.

“We know that light pollution significantly alters moth activity and this in turn is disrupting their role as pollinators,” said Darren Evans, supervisor of the study at Newcastle University, in a media release. “Understanding the ecological impact of this artificial light on the ecosystem is vital.”

Because bright lights distract the moths however (some scientists believe this is because they mistake artificial light for moonlight), they spend more time frantically swarming and less feeding on nectar.

Many localities already turn off street lights in the middle of the night to save money on energy. The researchers found that moth-pollinated flowers placed under street lights that turned off for part of the night were pollinated just as well as those pollinated in full darkness. Full-night lighting disrupted the moths’ natural behavior significantly more.