Light Pollution Is a Driver of Insect Declines

23 Pages Posted: 17 May 2019 Last revised: 4 Dec 2019

See all articles by Avalon Owens

Avalon Owens

Tufts University - Department of Biology

Precillia Cochard

Université Laval

Joanna Durrant

University of Melbourne

Bridgette Farnworth

University of Waikato

Elizabeth Perkin

McDaniel College

Brett Seymoure

Washington University; St. Louis University; Colorado State University

Date Written: April 26, 2019


Insects around the world are rapidly declining. Concerns over what this loss means for food security and ecological communities have compelled a growing number of researchers to search for the key drivers behind the decline. Habitat loss, pesticide use, invasive species, and climate change all have likely played a role, but we posit here that artificial light at night (ALAN) is another important — but often overlooked — bringer of the insect apocalypse. We first discuss the history and extent of ALAN, and then present evidence that ALAN has led to insect declines through its interference with the development, movement, foraging, and reproductive success of diverse insect species, as well as its positive effect on insectivore predation. We conclude with a discussion of how artificial lights can be tuned to reduce their impacts on vulnerable populations. ALAN is unique among anthropogenic habitat disturbances in that it is fairly easy to ameliorate, and leaves behind no residual effects. Greater recognition of the ways in which ALAN impacts insects can help conservationists reduce or eliminate one of the major drivers of insect declines.

Keywords: ALAN, light pollution, skyglow, insect apocalypse, insect declines, insect conservation

Suggested Citation

Owens, Avalon and Cochard, Precillia and Durrant, Joanna and Farnworth, Bridgette and Perkin, Elizabeth and Seymoure, Brett, Light Pollution Is a Driver of Insect Declines (April 26, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Avalon Owens

Tufts University - Department of Biology ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

Precillia Cochard

Université Laval ( email )

2214 Pavillon J-A. DeSeve
Quebec, Quebec G1K 7P4

Joanna Durrant

University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053

Bridgette Farnworth

University of Waikato ( email )

Te Raupapa
Private Bag 3105
Hamilton, 3240
New Zealand

Elizabeth Perkin

McDaniel College ( email )

Westminster, MD 21157
United States

Brett Seymoure (Contact Author)

Washington University ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1208
Saint Louis, MO MO 63130-4899
United States
2695018761 (Phone)

St. Louis University ( email )

3511 LaClede Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63103
United States

Colorado State University ( email )

Fort Collins, CO 80523-1771
United States
269 501 8761 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics