Moths and Lights

Last night, I read Cecil’s column on moths and lights. Now, this was an admirable column, it goes without saying, and entirely correct in every detail - I mean, it’s Cecil’s.

Still, I could not help but notice, as I was reading, that there was a moth in the computer room who was not behaving as described. Cecil said moths fly up to lights and then orbit them; this moth was flying straight at the lights, bonking into the lightbulb (yes, we do have bare bulbs in here; we consider ourselves deeply and fashionably minimalist, plus the fixture broke), bouncing off (sometimes falling all the way to the ground in the process), then flying straight up and doing it again. No orbiting at all.
Plus, I got to thinking about it - if moths always orbit, then why do you sometimes find charred remnants o’ moth in light fixtures (in the rooms where they are not broken, of course)? And why do bug zappers work? (I realize they aren’t just for moths - are we saying moths never get zapped, though?)

So there’s some real cognitive dissonance going on for me here. On the one hand, we have Cecil, with his vast array of knowledge and demonstrated perfection, saying moths orbit lights. On the other hand, we have at least one moth definitely not orbiting. Some possible ideas I’ve thought of to resolve this:

  1. Mine was a bone-headed (even by moth standards) moth.
  2. Mine was some moth version of an extreme-sports addict.
  3. Mine was a very depressed moth.
  4. It has something to do with the fact that the moth was indoors, not outdoors. This is the most satisfactory of these reasons, at least to me, though it still leaves open the question of bug-zappers.

Anyway, I could use some guidance here. Anyone else have non-orbiting moths? (I originally wrote ‘bonking moths,’ but that sounded wrong.) Anyone know what was up with mine?

I was recently trying to (humanely) remove a moth from my bedroom by catching it in a paper cup to let it go outside.

Yes, this probably looked ridiculous.

Anyway, I just about had the little guy when he made a straight beeline (mothline?) for the halogen lamp. He burned up instantly, in a little puff of smoke.

When I tilted the halogen to look inside the “dish” I noticed several dead moths and who knows what else. The horror…


My WAG would be that it’s either:

  1. Different species of moths orbit or bonk in varying degrees.

  2. Bonking moths are those that have become too disoriented, or fatigued, or both, to orbit properly.

  3. It depends on how bright the light is in contrast to other lighting. Your computer room probably had ambient light in addition to the overhead light (the light from the monitor). Hence a certain amount of moth confusion as to what exactly he was supposed to orbit.

Thank you for making my day. I love this kind of stuff. :slight_smile:

Seriously. :slight_smile:

Orbiting vs. bonking moths… Hee.