A Moment of Science

Why Moths Fly toward Lights

Ever wonder why moths fly toward bright lights? Find out on today's Moment of Science.

Time once again for the Classic Science Question. This is where we answer one of those age-old questions that people are always asking. Today’s Classic Question is… why do moths fly into porch lights?

Every summer you probably wonder about this. The answer is stars. Moths, along with butterflies, belong to a species known as the Lepidoptera. The Lepidoptera aren’t particularly good with their eyes. They use vision for some tasks, such as recognizing flowers or finding mates. But mostly they gather information by way of their highly sensitive antennas. They also taste the world using receptors located on their feet.

Now think about what the world was like millions of years before porch lights existed. If you are a nocturnal species, like a moth, there isn’t much light around to use. In fact, the only regular source of light would be the stars and the moon. Moths seem to use light only as a way of telling which direction is up. If you fly toward the moon, there’s no danger of bumping into it, but you will succeed in flying up into the air instead of down into the ground.

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