Quantifying the attractiveness of broad-spectrum street lights to aerial nocturnal insects

Andrew Wakefield, Moth Broyles, Emma Stone, Stephen Harris, Gareth Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (SciVal)


Sodium street lights, dominated by long wavelengths of light, are being replaced by broad-spectrum, white lights globally, in particular light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These white lights typically require less energy to operate and are therefore considered “eco-friendly”. However, little attention has been paid to the impacts white lights may have upon local wildlife populations.

We compared insect attraction to orange (high-pressure sodium, HPS) and white (metal halide, MH and LED) street lights experimentally using portable street lights and custom-made flight intercept traps.

Significantly more (greater than five times as many) insects were attracted to white MH street lights than white (4,250 K) LED and HPS lights. There was no statistical difference in the numbers of insects attracted to LED and HPS lights for most taxa caught. However, rarefaction shows a greater diversity of insects caught at LED than HPS lights.

Policy implications. With the current, large-scale conversion to white light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, our results give insight into how changes to street light technology may affect wildlife populations and communities. We recommend avoiding metal halide light installations as they attract many more insects than competing technologies. We highlight the need to tailor LED lighting to prevent disturbances across multiple insect taxa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-722
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2017


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