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Why do moths like light?


Okay, junior lepidopterists! That's what we call scientists who study moths and butterflies. Let's put our moth caps on!

First, can you tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly? Approach your specimen while it's resting for a closer inspection... if it doesn't fly away! Moths will rest with both wings open flat, while butterflies land with their wings together and upright. Moths tend to be more active at night and drab in colour, and they have fatter, fuzzier bodies.

Some creatures instinctively move towards or away from light. Moths are positively phototactic – a scientific way of saying that they really, really like light! Plus a hungry moth may sense that other tiny insects will be near the light, so it will make a stop for a delicious snack. The attraction to light could also be a case of mixed signals. The nectar from flowers reflects ultraviolet light, so the light could look like food to moths that eat nectar.

According to some scientists, the moon helps moths know where they're going. But even the most ambitious moth isn't trying to make a moon landing! (Well, maybe humans are just in the dark about it.) Think of it like a giant beacon in the sky, guiding moths along a constant flight path. So when a moth encounters a light source that looks like the moon, it can become confused.

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