Citizen Science

Science Advances study – insects and streetlights

Science Advances study – insects and streetlights 

Images at the end show some common native British moths that have been found at the study sites, but not necessarily during this latest study. The authors are awaiting results of DNA barcoding to confirm the ID of the caterpillars found during the study. Feel free to email lead author Douglas Boyes ( for clarification on any images/captions.

1. White LED street lights (along a rural road) at one of the 27 pairs of field sites. The lights also illuminate the adjacent hedgerows and grass margins (both these areas were sampled for the two sets of caterpillars examined in the study). Location: Tackley, Oxfordshire. Image: Douglas Boyes

2. Sampling nocturnal caterpillars in grass margins using a sweep net (under white LED street lights). Location: Golden Balls Roundabout, Oxfordshire. Image: Jacob Jaffe

3. A selection of moth caterpillars caught by sweep netting (mix of several species, family: Noctuidae) during fieldwork. Image: Douglas Boyes

4. LED streetlights at a rural junction. Location: Curbridge, Oxfordshire. Image: Douglas Boyes

5. Our study showed that sodium streetlights, with their characteristic orange hue, are less harmful to insects. Location: Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire. Image: Douglas Boyes

6. Experimental lighting rigs (white LED, in this case) were used to see whether light affects the behaviour of nocturnal caterpillars in grass margins (with no history of lighting). The rigs are 4 meters tall, comparable to streetlights used in residential areas. Location: Little Milton, Oxfordshire. Image: Douglas Boyes

7. Road verges can be fantastic wildlife habitats (especially when not subject to bright lighting). Photo taken during botanical survey of an unlit transect at one of the study sites. Location: Botley, Oxfordshire. Image: Douglas Boyes

8. Standardised monitoring has revealed that the total number of moths has declined steadily by one third over the last 50 years (1968–2017). Pictured are two of the 2,500 moth species found in the UK (Elephant Hawk-moth, L and Small Elephant Hawk-moth, R). Image: Douglas Boyes.

9. Swallow-tailed Moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria) has declined in abundance by almost a half since 1970. Credit: Iain Leach/Butterfly Conservation

10. Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac) caterpillar. This species has suffered a 45% drop in its numbers since the 1970s. Credit: Patrick Clement/Butterfly Conservation

11. Buff Arches (Habrosyne pyritoides) has declined by 62% since the 1970s.Credit: Iain Leach/Butterfly Conservation

12. Canary-shouldered Thorn (Ennomos alniaria) populations have plummeted by two-thirds over the last 50 years. Credit: Iain Leach/Butterfly Conservation

13. Blood-vein (Timandra comae) has declined in abundance by 55% between 1970-2016. Credit: Patrick Clement/Butterfly Conservation

14. Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata). This bird dropping mimic has declined by 41% in Britain. Credit: Iain Leach/Butterfly Conservation

15. The numbers of Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis) have dropped by 43% since the 1970s. Credit: Iain Leach/Butterfly Conservation

16. Pebble Hook-tip (Drepana falcataria) is now far less frequently seen than in previ

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