Friday Fact: The Hapless Flight to Bright Lights at Night


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I often have the experience, when I learn a new fact that makes my eyes widen with excitement, of eagerly relating the fact to a friend only to have them smile politely and stifle a yawn.  That’s when I realize that they already know what I just learned, and that, in fact, it is probably common knowledge for almost everyone in the free world but me.  But that doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm very much at all.  This is probably one of those facts, but I’ll tell it anyway because…well, because it thrilled me. 

One of the best things about living in the mountains for me is being able to leave our windows open in the summer.  It’s particularly wonderful because we get to listen to all the sounds of the forest at night—the haunting calls of owls, the mournful howling of coyotes, and the snorts of deer (while they’re eating our plants, no doubt).  And when we have the lights on in a room, one sound we hear is the thump, thump, thump of moths repeatedly hurling themselves against the screen.  I have often wondered why they are drawn to light and why they are so persistent, though it often leads to their demise.  My daughter Ariel still has lovely luna moth wings that she found, as a child, under a street light, where the poor moths were apparently drawn to the bright light.

Well, the theory held by most entomologists is that the male moths mistake the artificial lights glowing in our streets and homes for the…moon.  They can’t see very well, so they rely on the moon to navigate in a straight line by keeping the moonrays at an angle as they fly out in search of a mate.  And the reason they seem a bit demented in the way they constantly fling themselves against our screen or our porch light is that they become disoriented because it is impossible to use the rays from porch or room lights to navigate, so they lose their bearings. 

Hmm…they are definitely not the only living creatures to lose their bearings in search of love, but it is certainly unfortunate that so many die in the attempt. 

Check out this great story in the Mountain Xpress about an Asheville man and his “night visitors.”


4 Responses to “Friday Fact: The Hapless Flight to Bright Lights at Night”

  1. June Says:

    You at least have one other person in the free world to keep you company in not having known this. In fact, I can hardly grasp how much I don’t know.

    Nature makes so much sense. It’s truly amazing…and then, we tend to mess it up. I’ll never hear those thumps the same way again!

  2. CountryDew Says:

    Your Friday fact reminded me of a short story I read many years ago. It haunted me all day and I finally had to write up a version of it. I cannot recall the original story’s name or author, but I really like the legend.

  3. Shannon Says:

    Oh my, I know ’bout zilch about moths. How interesting! I’m going to have to go find a book on them now. Shannon

  4. ben (aka guitar maniac) Says:

    Can you imagine if humans had similar impulses, and it were the deer or the bears driving cars, making fires, etc? (I see the LIGHT! I SEE THE LIIIGHT! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!)

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