, Volume 101, Issue 5, pp 385–395 | Cite as

Phototaxis and polarotaxis hand in hand: night dispersal flight of aquatic insects distracted synergistically by light intensity and reflection polarization

  • Pál BodaEmail author
  • Gábor Horváth
  • György Kriska
  • Miklós Blahó
  • Zoltán Csabai
Original Paper


Based on an earlier observation in the field, we hypothesized that light intensity and horizontally polarized reflected light may strongly influence the flight behaviour of night-active aquatic insects. We assumed that phototaxis and polarotaxis together have a more harmful effect on the dispersal flight of these insects than they would have separately. We tested this hypothesis in a multiple-choice field experiment using horizontal test surfaces laid on the ground. We offered simultaneously the following visual stimuli for aerial aquatic insects: (1) lamplit matte black canvas inducing phototaxis alone, (2) unlit shiny black plastic sheet eliciting polarotaxis alone, (3) lamplit shiny black plastic sheet inducing simultaneously phototaxis and polarotaxis, and (4) unlit matte black canvas as a visually unattractive control. The unlit matte black canvas trapped only a negligible number (13) of water insects. The sum (16,432) of the total numbers of water beetles and bugs captured on the lamplit matte black canvas (7,922) and the unlit shiny black plastic sheet (8,510) was much smaller than the total catch (29,682) caught on the lamplit shiny black plastic sheet. This provides experimental evidence for the synergistic interaction of phototaxis (elicited by the unpolarized direct lamplight) and polarotaxis (induced by the strongly and horizontally polarized plastic-reflected light) in the investigated aquatic insects. Thus, horizontally polarizing artificial lamplit surfaces can function as an effective ecological trap due to this synergism of optical cues, especially in the urban environment.


Ecological trap Visual ecology Photopollution Polarized light pollution Phototaxis Polarotaxis Cue synergism 



We thank Judit Csaba, Judit Horváth, Bence Kovács, Erika Mihaliczku, Barbara Palombi, Renáta Tóth, Zsuzsanna Urbán and Vivien Viski (University of Debrecen, Hungary) for their extensive help during our field experiment. Gábor Horváth is grateful to the German Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the 3-month research fellowship 3.3-UNG/1073032 STP from 1 June to 31 August 2013 in the University of Regensburg.

Supplementary material

114_2014_1166_MOESM1_ESM.docx (36 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 35.9 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pál Boda
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gábor Horváth
    • 2
  • György Kriska
    • 3
    • 4
  • Miklós Blahó
    • 2
  • Zoltán Csabai
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Tisza River ResearchMTA Centre for Ecological ResearchDebrecenHungary
  2. 2.Environmental Optics Laboratory, Department of Biological Physics, Physical InstituteEötvös UniversityBudapestHungary
  3. 3.Group for Methodology of Biology Teaching, Biological InstituteEötvös UniversityBudapestHungary
  4. 4.Danube Research InstituteMTA Centre for Ecological ResearchVácrátótHungary
  5. 5.Department of Hydrobiology, Institute of Biology, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of PécsPécsHungary

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