LEDs: Good for prizes, bad for insects

Susan Ellis/Bugwood.org

LEDs: Good for prizes, bad for insects

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are getting plenty of good press today, thanks to this morning’s Nobel Prize announcement, but a new study finds that they may be bad news for insects. Moths, flies, and other insects are drawn much more strongly by the spectrum of light from LEDs than the yellow glare of sodium-vapor bulbs. New research, published in the current issue of Ecological Applications, shows that traps placed near LEDs captured 48% more insects than traps near sodium-vapor lights. In all, the researchers caught and identified more than 20,000 bugs; moths and flies were the most common. The allure can be fatal, throwing off insect navigation and exposing them to predators. The larger ecological effects could include the disruption of food webs. One particular concern: LED lights near ports could attract flying pests that are accidentally transported by ships. An example is the gypsy moth (pictured), an invasive species that has devastated forests. Unfortunately, the tests showed that simply tweaking the spectrum of LEDs did not reduce their attractiveness  to insects. It’s possible that certain filters or combinations of red, green, and blue LEDs could lessen the visual appeal, but that might raise the cost and energy consumption.

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