An unconventional bug repellent

Imagine it’s a warm summer evening as you relax in your favorite lounge chair and soak in serenity. The sun begins to set, so you flip the porch lights on to continue reading the pages of the book you have just begun to feel absorbed in.

Abruptly, the peace ends and buzzing begins.

Artificial light attracts moths, flies, crane flies and even beetles, but arguably the most bothersome and harmful insect to join the aerial display of bugs around the bulb is the mosquito.

But why is it that insects are attracted to lights – often so much so that they are willing to burn to a crisp in attempt to get closer?

According to insects expert Debbie Hadley, night flying insects navigate by the moon, which reflects light at a constant angle, allowing insects to maintain a straight and steady flight path. Artificial lights, on the other hand, radiate light from all sides, thoroughly confusing and preventing insects from flying at a constant angle.

A recent study from The Royal Society, however, concluded that nocturnal arthropods, including mosquitoes, are substantially less attracted to LED lighting than light transmitted by compact fluorescents. Blue-free LED bulbs, in particular, were found to attract 20 percent fewer bugs than all other types of bulbs.

One of the major conclusions the scientists pulled from their research is that customized LED lighting could be beneficial for both people and the environment as a weapon against parasitic infections, such as West Nile virus and malaria.

Light & Mosquito

Still one of the leading causes of death in Africa and other areas, malaria kills an estimated 655,000 people every year, according to treehugger. Malaria is transmitted by female mosquitoes, specifically – which Bill Gates has deemed the deadliest animal on Earth.

Distributing LED bulbs amongst areas where mosquito-born diseases are common could help people have the necessary illumination at night without the risk of attracting more insects. Although there’s much room for improvement, the study claims its findings could be the catalyst for further progress in the fight against malaria, particularly as the cost of LEDs continues to decrease.