When the sun goes down, moths, beetles and other nocturnal insects that spread pollen between plants go to work. But the latest research reveals that these creatures might be at risk from artificial lighting.
Scientists working in Switzerland report large drop-offs in pollinator visits as well as reduced fruit production in patches of cabbage thistle (Cirsium oleraceum) under artificial lighting at night, in a study published on 2 August in Nature1. Researchers were largely in the dark about how problems such as light pollution affected pollinators. But the study authors say their work highlights how the human footprint can reverberate throughout an ecosystem — even after people have gone to bed.
The researchers placed mobile street lamps over plots of cabbage thistle that had never before been exposed to artificial light at night. Using night-vision goggles to observe and capture pollinators, the team found that those plots had 62% fewer visitations from insects than plots situated in darkness. The artificially lit plants also saw 29% fewer pollinator species