Why Are Moths Attracted To Light?

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The phrase “like a moth to a flame” is incredibly common, but stopping to think about why this phrase came about in the first place is both interesting and important. The truth is that moths are attracted to lights for various reasons, and if you understand what these are, you can keep them away from your backyard or porch. Just like with so many pest control techniques, staying consistent is key. 

Understanding why moths are attracted to light can help you arrange your space in a way to keep them away. Nothing can ruin a nice summer evening out on the porch like a flurry of moths flying around. 

In this article, you will learn: 

  • Why Moths Are Attracted To Light
  • How to Keep Moths Away From Lights
Reviewed By:
Ed Spicer

Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!

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    Why Are Moths Attracted To Light?

    It’s not entirely known by entomologists why moths are attracted to bright lights, but before you can begin to think about it, it’s best to know about phototaxis. This is an organism’s built-in reflex to go toward light or away from it. For example, cockroaches are negative phototactic animals, and they will run away from light when presented with it. This is why you see cockroaches scatter when you turn on a kitchen light. On the other hand, moths are positive phototactic animals, so they will be attracted to both natural and artificial light sources. 

    While it’s not known why moths are attracted to streetlights, light bulbs, and campfires, there are a couple of different theories. Experts in entomology are still trying to figure out the source of this phenomenon, and science news is always running stories about this interesting behavior. 

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    One of the dominant theories of why moths are attracted to porch lights and light pollution is that they use light for transverse orientation. This means that moths use the moon as a way to navigate in the dark, and since a moth’s eyes don’t focus the same way that a human’s do, they can’t tell the difference between artificial light and the moon. Since some moth types migrate and are nocturnal insects, their dependence on the moon makes them susceptible to being tricked when they get into populated areas. 

    Infrared Light Attraction 

    One of the other theories, which Philip Callahan presented in the 1970s, is that moths are attracted to infrared light, which emits the same frequencies and wavelengths as a female moth’s pheromones. However, this doesn’t explain why moths are equally attracted to UV light. Ultraviolet light doesn’t contain any of the frequencies that female moths give off, and male moths are still attracted to it. It could, however, explain some of the behavior of moths when they get burned by a campfire or candlelight. It may be a combination of these things that makes moths have a potentially fatal attraction towards flames. 

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    How to Keep Moths Away From Lights

    Change Bulbs

    One of the best ways to keep moths away from your porch light is to change the bulb’s color. White bulbs will be much more attractive to moths, possibly due to their attraction to the moon. If you replace these bulbs with darker yellow bulbs, moths and other insects will be less likely to gather in that area. 

    Use Citronella 

    Citronella candles are a natural pest deterrent and can be a great replacement for regular candles or lights. While moths are attracted to flames, they’ll be repelled by the scent of the citronella and will stay away at all costs. Not only will this make you more comfortable, but it will also be safer for the moths in the area. 

    You can also apply citronella oil directly around your porch or any area where you’re experiencing a moth infestation. If you place the oil around the light source, it will heat up when the light is turned on. This heats the oil and spreads the scent around, which will make the moths in the area avoid your porch no matter how tempting the light may be. 

    Set Out a Light Trap 

    You can put out a large bowl on your porch with a cup of water and a few drops of liquid dish soap for a DIY light trap. Place this near a white light bulb. The moths will be attracted to the reflection of the bulb in the water and fall into it. The soap makes bubbles, which trap the moths. This is a good way to keep moths from laying eggs around your porch and causing an infestation. 

    Phototaxis is an organism’s built-in reflex to go toward light or away from it. moths are positive phototactic animals, so they will be attracted to both natural and artificial light sources. 

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    Final Words

    While it’s not entirely known why moths are attracted to light, the fact remains that where there are lights at night, there will be moths. Using this information to your advantage when trying to keep moths away from your home can be an effective way of repelling them and ensuring they don’t turn into an infestation. 

    Suppose you’re dealing with a lot of moths. In that case, no matter how much citronella oil you spread around or how many of your light bulbs you’ve changed, it’s best to call in a pest control professional. They’ll be able to figure out the source of your moth problem and can decide on the best ways to get rid of it. By taking control of the situation, you can not only make your backyard more comfortable, but you can also prevent moths from burning themselves up in your candles or campfire. 



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