One Buggy Thing: Streetlights Threaten Caterpillars

Image: Miroslava Serova, Copyrighted free use, via Wikimedia Commons

The world’s insect populations are in rapid decline under pressures from climate change, urbanization, invasive species, pesticides, and more. Now, scientists say that white LED lights popular for lighting streets are responsible for some catastrophic declines. Their findings have profound implications for the world’s tiny unsung heroes, who often build the foundations of their ecosystems.

A UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology team observed moth caterpillar populations under white LEDs and populations not illuminated by artificial light at night. They found that the illuminated populations contained 50% fewer caterpillars than unilluminated ones and that individuals under LEDs grew much more rapidly. Experts say this is just one more in the “death by a thousand cuts” facing the world’s insects.

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