Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 737–743 | Cite as

Low levels of light pollution may block the ability of male glow-worms (Lampyris noctiluca L.) to locate females

  • Stephanie Bird
  • Joel Parker


Light pollution has been proposed as a factor in the decline of Lampyris noctiluca because it has the potential to interfere with reproductive signaling and has been shown to impact the ability of males to locate light lures in a suburban environment. To compare and test the replicability of this effect in a natural setting and population, imitation females were set out under light polluted and control conditions at varying light pollution intensities in an undisturbed British chalk grassland. Very low levels of light pollution were found to interfere with phototaxis: no males were attracted at either 0.3 or 0.18 lux background lighting versus 33 males collected at paired dark controls. These background illumination levels are much lower than that of 1.5 lux which is recommended by local city councils in Britain to light footpaths. A survey of female L. noctiluca numbers and distribution showed a trend towards female clumping that was not statistically significant. We also found no evidence of light interfering with female signaling behavior.


Lampyris noctiluca Glow-worm Light pollution Phototaxis Distribution 



We would like to thank the School of Biological Sciences and the University of Southampton, in particular Dr. Lex Kraaijeveld for statistical advice, John Tyler, Dr. Alan Stewart and Robin Scagell for initial advice regarding the feasibility of studies, and Robin Scagell again for information on glow-worm sites and for the loan of his GPS system. We would also like to thank Dr. John Day, Karen Parker, Kathy Lavoie, anonymous reviewers for manuscript suggestions, and Mike Adams for his enlightening information on street lamps and council policies.


  1. Alexander KNA (1992) The glow-worm, Lampyris noctiluca (L.), in Gloucestershire and its conservation. Glos Nat 5:1–5Google Scholar
  2. Booth D, Stewart AJA, Osorio D (2004) Colour vision in the glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca (L.) (Coleoptera: Lampyridae): evidence for a green–blue chromatic mechanism. J Exp Biol 207:2373–2378PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Branham MA, Wenzel JW (2003) The origin of photic behavior and the evolution of sexual communication in fireflies (Coleoptera: elateroidea). Cladistics 19:1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Critchley CNR, Burke MJW, Stevens DP (2004) Conservation of lowland semi-natural grasslands in the UK: a review of botanical monitoring results from agri-environment schemes. Biol Conserv 115:263–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Day JC (2011) Parasites, predators and defense of fireflies and glow-worms. Lampyrid 1:70–100Google Scholar
  6. Driesig H (1975) Environmental control of the daily onset of luminescent activity in glow-worms and fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Oecologia 18:85–99Google Scholar
  7. Eisenbeis G (2006) Artificial night lighting and insects: attraction of insects to streetlamps in a rural setting in Germany. In: Rich C, Longcore T (eds) Ecological consequences of artificial night lighting. Island Press, Washington DC, pp 281–304Google Scholar
  8. Gardiner T (2006) Effect of survey start time on counts of the Glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca (Col.: Lampyridae). Entomol Rec J Var 118:184–185Google Scholar
  9. Gardiner T (2007a) Short-term changes (2001-2005) in glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca L. (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) abundance in Essex. Br J of Entomol Nat Hist 20:1–7Google Scholar
  10. Gardiner T (2007b) Optimum survey dates for detecting glow-worms Lampyris noctulica Linnaeus (Lampyridae) in Essex. Coleopt 16:12–13Google Scholar
  11. Gardiner T (2007c) The decline of the glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca in Epping Forest. Essex Nat 24:90–92Google Scholar
  12. Gardiner T, Pye M, Field R (2002) Glow-worms Lampyris noctiluca L. (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) in Essex: results of the 2001 Essex glow-worm survey. Essex Nat 19:151–159Google Scholar
  13. Grafen A, Hails R (2003) Modern statistics for the life sciences. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Hickmott W, Tyler J (2011) Seasonal variation in female display period of the glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca L. (Coleoptera:Lampyridae). Lampyrid 1:14–21Google Scholar
  15. Horne J (2011) Unfit or unlucky? a sexual difference in the timing of adult emergence in the glow-worm Lampyris nocitiluca L. (Coleoptera; Lanpyridae). Lamprid 1:9–13Google Scholar
  16. Ineichen S, Rüttimann B (2012) Impact of artificial light on the distribution of the common European glow-worm, Lampyris noctiluca (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Lampyrid 2:31–36Google Scholar
  17. Lloyd JE (2006) Stray light, fire flies and fireflyers. In: Rich C, Longcore T (eds) Ecological consequences of artificial night lighting. Island Press, Washington, D. C., pp 345–364Google Scholar
  18. Longcore T, Rich C (2004) Ecological light pollution. Front Ecol Environ 2:191–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Rydell J (1992) Exploitation of insects by bats around street lamps in Sweden. Funct Ecol 6:744–750CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Sala-Newby GB, Thomson CM, Campbell AK (1996) Sequence and biochemical similarities between the luciferases of the glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca and the firefly Photinus pyralis. Biochem J 313:761–767PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Schwalb HH (1961) Contributions to the domestic Lampyridae Lampyris noctiluca GEOFFR and Phausis Splendidula LEC. and experimental analysis of their predatory and sexual behavior (Translation). Zool Jahrb 88:399–550Google Scholar
  22. Stone EL, Jones G, Harris S (2009) Street lighting disturbs commuting bats. Curr Biol 19:1123–1127PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. The Institute of Lighting Engineers (Great Britain) (2005) The outdoor lighting guide. Taylor and Francis, AbingdonGoogle Scholar
  24. Tyler J (1986) The ecology and conservation of the glow-worm, Lampyris noctiluca (L.) in Britain. Atala 10–12:17–19Google Scholar
  25. Tyler J (1994) Glow-worms. Herald Press, Stratford-upon-AvonGoogle Scholar
  26. Tyler J (2002) The glow-worm. Lakeside Printing Ltd., SevenoaksGoogle Scholar
  27. Tyler J (2004) Luminescence on the world wide web: the UK glow-worm Survey website. Lumin 19:358Google Scholar
  28. Tyler J (2011) A study of the male flight season in the glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca (L.) (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). Lampyrid 1:32–38Google Scholar
  29. Vickery JA, Tallowin JR, Feber RE, Asteraki EJ, Atkinson PW, Fuller RJ, Brown VK (2001) The management of lowland neutral grasslands in Britain: effects of agricultural practices on birds and their food resources. J Appl Ecol 38:647–664CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Yoon TJ, Kim DG, Kim SY, Jo SI, Bae YJ (2010) Light-attraction flight of the giant water bug, Lethocerus deyrolli (Hemiptera: Belostomatidae), an endangered wetland insect in East Asia. Aquat Insects 32(3):195–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Biological SciencesUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.University of RoehamptonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesState University of New York, PlattsburghPlattsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations