Why are Moths Attracted to Light?

You’ve seen them charging at your fluorescent lights, at your lamps, even at open flames! A moth’s attraction to light is profound – so what causes this?

We did some research into this throughout the week, and we’ll use this week’s post to discuss moth meanings based on their attraction to light, while also exploring more scientific explanations.

What Makes Moths Attracted to Light?

We’re probably all familiar to the old saying ‘like a moth to the flame’ – where one with blindly follow someone without concerns of the consequences. While we are usually able to diagnose these issues within humans, moths are a different kind of beast. Although there are a plethora of theories attempting to explain why moths blindly charge towards light, we haven’t quite had anything conclusive.

One of the most common theories is that unnatural sources of light throw out a moth’s internal navigational system. The theory is supported by what is believed to be a moth’s transverse orientation. This relates to some species of insects flying in a constant angle relevant to natural light sources, namely the sun and moon.

Many entomologists believe that an artificial light throws out of a moth’s navigational system. The second light source, which is also closer, distracts the moth and gets it caught in a continual charge towards the light. Makes sense right?

But what about natural selection? Fires have been around for over 400 thousand years. Shouldn’t the moth have evolved to a level where it can determine different light sources?

Further to this, there have been studies (most notably by PS Callahan) into moths being sexually attracted to flames. Sounds bizarre, but Callahan theorised that the candle flame acted as a sexual mimic of the infrared wavelengths from the sex scent of a moth.

Moths, Light and Symbolic Meanings

The moth’s persistence to head towards the light has several symbolic meanings. Many believe the light to be metaphorical for the right way, and associate a moth’s travels into the light as a reminder for us to do things for the greater good. This also ties back to quiet achievement, as moths focus on a singular purpose that is achieved in absence of the need for violence and hardships.

Through the light, a moth also reminds us of how the reliance on material goods is petty. All we need in our lives is purpose, an inner light that can guide us through any situation.

Many cultures also tie back moth’s attraction to light back to intuition. With a constant purpose towards the light, you can rely on a moth to bring you security and comfort in knowing the right way.

Moths and The God Delusion

Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins uses moths to exemplify his issues with organised religions. In his book ‘The God Delusion’, Dawkins mentions that moth’s celestial navigation causes issues for the species when artificial light is concerned, meaning many species of moth have fried in flames.

Dawkins likens this to what he considers a need for humans to head towards psychological evolution. He believes religion to have been a by-product of the human race’s evoluritionary process.

It’s rather ironic consider how often moths are associated with faith!

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