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Germany plans to dim lights at night to save insects (msn.com)
1194 points by Shivetya on Aug 6, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 469 comments

I actually was sitting outside a few nights ago and realized that there was no more fireflies, and I couldn't remember the last time I had seen one. I used to go out all the time during summer as a kid to catch them, they would light up whole fields. That was just like 15 years ago. Pretty sobering realization

I'm in Chicago (in a neighborhood close to downtown) and in previous years I'd hardly ever seen any fireflies. This year, they're everywhere -- in parks and even in trees on neighborhood streets.

I understand fireflies are sensitive to light pollution. I can't imagine Chicago's any different from other major cities. COVID has people staying home a lot more but that has nothing to do with street lighting. I wonder what's going on.

I do think that living organisms are extraordinarily adaptable if the changes are gradual and bounded. Most of us have this idea that an ecosystem is this delicate and fragile thing, but nature actually has a lot of robustness and redundancies built-in (which are inefficient but increase chances of group survival).

We live rural southern Ontario and fireflies are usually just a single weekend or so at the end of June or beginning of July. But this year they went on for almost two months. They only just stopped about a week ago.

I'm not sure why it was a good season for them. Like you say, traffic, lighting, pesticide sprays on farms, all really the same despite COVID. Reduced air traffic I don't think would have an affect? Even after I sprayed my vineyard with insecticide to deal with japanese beetles they were fine, and continued to prosper in and around there.

It may just be that we've had an unusually hot dry year, I assume where you have as well. Maybe that's advantageous for them somehow?

> We live rural southern Ontario and fireflies are usually just a single weekend or so at the end of June or beginning of July. But this year they went on for almost two months. They only just stopped about a week ago.

I wonder if this is cyclical behavior. We had a year like that last year down in NJ. This year it was back to maybe only a week. I live in the west part of the state surrounded by parkland. Rainfall was the only thing that was dramatically different this year. Last year was extremely wet spring and early summer (when they appeared) followed by an extremely dry end of summer into fall. This year we've had average rain in almost every month. The rain evidence isn't anecdotal, I have a state rainfall gauge a couple miles down the road from me with records going back at least a few decades.

“firefly boom”! In Michigan in 2018: https://www.michiganradio.org/post/firefly-boom-lighting-mic...

I feel that I hear people say « we’re having a unusually hot dry year » every year...

On that note I just did a Google search for "more fireflies this year" and got news articles saying as much from 2018, 2019, and 2020.

It's possible that some policy changes are working.

One of my favorite memories of cycling through the midwest in the early 90's was watching the redwing blackbird population slowly recover.

Wouldn’t have been a good memory if you were _running_ through the midwest. A good chunk of the summer, they dive-bomb anyone who looks at their bush funny. Those birds are my personal nemeses - but they’re winning.

On that note i just did a Google search for "less fireflies this year" and got news articles saying as much from 2018, 2019, and 2020...

The last 5 years have been the hottest years on record, so...

People always complain about this being an unusually hot summer. Personally, I’m thinking of it as a summer i will look back upon as deliciously cool.

Well, we really are in many parts of the world due to Climate Change. If it keeps getting worse, it's always unusual compared to the past...

In the upper st lawrence / great lakes basin it's really becoming more and more erratic. More ice storms, more drastic swings in the winter, lower snowfall some years, more droughts in some summers, more record rainfalls in others, etc. It's a recognizable change even in the 25 years I've lived here.

Maybe, but last year was wet and cool, this year heat wave and drought. The great lakes are still up near their record water levels though (after last year and the year before), whereas a few years ago they were at record lows.

i mean, at least where I live many records about average and max temperature have been broken 3 years in a row now. I suppose if this continues it will actually start to be not unusual for this to happen.

Well, this year we for one don't, in fact we're having the exact opposite, but last year we did have a hot year and everyone said it's definitely climate change. I think we're not yet at the point where we can feel it, we're just projecting.

The personal subjective feeling at this point is fewer places having snowy winters and more frequent and severe heatwaves — the phrase “9 of the hottest years on record were in the last decade” being in the news most (or all?) years since the late 1990s.

Most individual people won’t feel the change that’s happened over their lifetime unless they’re wondering why it doesn’t snow any more or how they ever managed without air conditioning; it shows up in higher costs for national-scale-multi-year weather damage or crop and fishing productivity.

And of course, this is a global rather than local effect, so some places have more change than others. My first trip to the USA was the 2014/15 winter when there was simultaneously record cold on the Atlantic coast and record warm on the Pacific coast.

Those of us into winter sports are keenly conscious of the winter weather patterns, in a way the bulk of the population is not. Snow in southern Ontario for example has always been unreliable, with rain and snow mixes common, but snowfall is getting much much less reliable.

>I do think that living organisms are extraordinarily adaptable if the changes are gradual and bounded. Most of us have this idea that an ecosystem is this delicate and fragile thing, but nature actually has a lot of robustness and redundancies built-in (which are inefficient but increase chances of group survival).

Yet, the vast majority of scientists who study ecosystems disagree: https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/ipbes_7_10_add.1_en_1....

More at https://ipbes.net/global-assessment

Chicago used to be orange at night, now it's blue. I wonder if the color temperature and intensity changes in the shift to LED street lighting played a role. They certainly do in human sleep.

I'm also in Chicago. I've noticed the same. We got those new LED street-lights last autumn and I was wondering if that had something to do with it.

Same here in the Chicagoland suburbs....nonstop fireflies all evening long. Quite a beautiful sight.

I'm seeing the same thing in my Chicago neighborhood. We just had our alley lights changed to the new LEDs, maybe that has an impact?

They're changing the lights all over the city. You can see the stars again. I can see way more stars now than 5 years ago.

How many bugs are on your car's windshield/grille, versus 20 years ago?

How much more aerodynamic is your car now versus then?

I drove a Scion xB for 13 years which had all the sleek aerodynamics of a toaster. When I got it in 2005 after driving a sedan for years, I IMMEDIATELY noticed how much more buggy the windshield got during the summer. It was one of the few things I disliked about that ugly, lovely little Lego brick.

By 2015, the bugs has drastically diminished enough for me to remark upon it before coming across any studies. The confounding factor here though is that the county I was in had a lot of development in it over that time. My routes stayed mostly the same (meaning both ‘where I drove’ and ‘how many buildings were along them’) but I can’t discount the expansion of the surrounding sprawl as a big factor.

Even after I moved to a neighboring more-rural county though, with a longer commute to the same workplace, I did not really see an increase.

This does not seem to have any influence. Even with 'oldtimers' you get less squashed bugs nowadays.

Even accounting for this, there is sufficient evidence for a significant drop in insect populations. While it's hard to have exact numbers, the estimations in decline of population range from 70% to 90% since the 1980.

[1] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ece3.5236

I remember that a couple of years ago, there was a study that was based on squashed bugs on licence plates. Basically they used the standardized surface of the plates to measure the bugs in a certain area. No idea what came from it.

There's also memory. I remember when driving at night 35 years ago I saw a lot more insects in my headlights than I see these days. The difference is very noticeable. There definitely more to it than aerodynamics.

Actually average CdA (drag area) would certainly have gone up in most parts of the world due to SUVs becoming popular. Looking at values on Wikipedia [1] definitely does not show an obvious reduction over the the last 20 years.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile_drag_coefficient

More... But that's because I drive at unusual hours, not when the squashed bugs are spread out over peak traffic (which has definitely increased, esp. trucks).

Could it be that because of COVID you have time to pay more attention? I wonder that sometimes about things I've "noticed" during the past 6 months. Maybe it accounts for some of it at least.

I've noticed the uptick in fireflies too, but I attributed it to the mild winter we had compared to the deep freeze of 2018-2019. Spring was also warm and wet very early.

We also had the sub-Brood XIII cicadas launch out in the western suburbs which was insane. They came early and they came out in huge numbers.

Ecosystems are delicate and fragile. But if you destroy one, there’s a good chance it very soon will be replaced with a new one, where the new niches are occupied by different species. At first it will be species that that aren’t very specialised, like rats and cockroaches. But after just a few million years you might have something as diverse and rich as the system you destroyed.

I don't want highly specialized pigeons and rats, thank you.

And at any rate, specialization only works if the problems stay relatively stable, or temporary. If we aren't stopped/don't stop ourselves we will keep inventing new insults every ten years and nothing can adapt to anywhere near that rate of change.

You're also forgetting the Carboniferous period. It took 50 million years for anything to puzzle out how to benefit from surplus lignin. In 50 million years are we going to be around? In 50 million years is anyone going to remember that Alpha Centauri is a system humans used to live in (before we used it up)?

Could they also experience population oscillations, like locusts or other similar species?

Just wait til you get lantern flies, they're no where near as cool.

Fireflies get killed by insecticides used for mosquitoes

I'm probably a bit North of you (Southern Canada) and this is the first year I've seen lots of fireflies at night. So there's a good chance it's more a case of migratory patterns changing than a mass die-off. Don't mean to make light of the matter, but it might not be as grim as it appears right now either.

For me it's red wasps. Growing up in Texas there used to be so many, you could see them flying low searching for spiders in the grass. Last Sunday, in the heart of summer, I couldn't find a single red wasp where there used to be hundreds.

I have a fallow field, and in perhaps two hours of dedicated observation I've got about 10 species of insect I need to identify, and for a couple of them I'm not even sure what kind of bug they are (I'm probably going to have to scan a field guide).

The lot is between the river and our local garden district. I suspect I'm part of a migration route between them (I figured I was too far from the river for dragonflies, but I see at least 2 a day) It's changing my plans for the space a bit.

Would highly suggest checking out the iNaturalist app. It doesn't always nail down insects/plants/etc, but a lot of the times it gives you a good guess and other, more experienced people will come along and give a better id.

There certainly hasn't been a shortage of yellow jackets for me here though (Texas).

I used to work summers out of college in an AK cannery. Some years there were barely any fish and the season would be closed early. Other years there was so much fish the cannery could barely keep up. Unless you're monitoring things regularly its hard to say whether there is an actual decline or not.

Driving through Europe one finds the front of the car covered in squashed insects. Drive through the UK and there are none. Depressing.

I didn't take the insect apocalypse seriously until I realized how much less time I'm spending washing bugs off my car. It was sort of my Silent Spring moment.

Yeah, I remember my parents needing to clean their windshield every time we went on the highway. It'd get absolutely caked in yellow and brown spatters after merely an hour or two.

As for me, I've never cleaned my windshield in my life. The rain washes off the little bits of dust. There's nothing else to clean.

It depends where in the UK you are driving, I have to wash the car after every major journey > 1hr long because its covered in dead insects and the red, I guess blood, staining the paint. I would say there has been more sightings of wildlife and more insects this year because of lockdown, more hedgehogs seen walking on the roads, more deer, rabbits and plenty of insects especially at night at the moment. So I normally walk my dog with a headtorch at night as its cooler for him to run around off the lead but the insects getting attracted to my headtorch this year is a stupid amount to the point I've stopped taking him out at night. Germany may be onto something by reducing the light sources. Where I live we do have LED street lamps which cast a very definite circle of light on the road, but there is no "side leakage" of light so its darker walking between street lamps. You also dont get any orange glow into your house or bedroom window like the old style street lamps used to do which can keep you awake especially when stressed. The number of small birds nesting in the area has also gone up over the last two years but its nice watching them feeding on insects crawling up and down plants like rose bushes, or hanging onto the side of brick houses getting the odd bug.

It hit me a couple of years back, a night time drive through the Australian countryside and your car would be plastered with insects - not anymore. And fireflies, I haven't seen one in years,

Yes 10 or 15 years ago driving from Adelaide to Melbourne would require a halfway pit stop to manually clean the windscreen because the wipers weren't able to cope with all the bug guts. Last year i did it and didn't need to even use the wipers once.

Our insect loss is much more likely due to climate change than light pollution though due to our sparse population between the cities.

Is there agriculture in those areas? I've been assuming it's mostly insecticides, as my home country hasn't warmed up that much yet.

21 years old and I have never seen a firefly. Figured they were an American thing. Did Australia have them?

It's also past peak firefly season, which is mid May to early June in North America.

Georgia has lots of them. Or at least we did last year. I haven't gotten out much in the COVID-19 world.

A year without fireflies.

Unless there is actual data it’s probably best to not trust your memory. Every time you remember something the reality of it changes. Memory is lossy. Bias and selection are favored over improvement or precision of recall. Every recollection is inferior to the previous one.

I have a few memories of extensive fire fly experiences back in the day. But when I really think about it, I don’t remember all the days and years without a dramatic memory. And the ones I have may be distorted.

Over the last 27 years, Insect biomass has dropped by more than 75% in protected areas in Germany. I don't think this is a memory issue.


No doubt. I was just pointing to a single instance and not saying they don’t remember well or that there isn’t data regarding insects in general.

I had a similar thought a few years back and researched it only to find that the fire fly population where I lived hadn’t really changed. I just happened to be keying on a memory that had a large amount of them and not taking into consideration that wasn’t the standard case. That their yearly population is dependent on certain weather conditions during specific months. And that some years they have a bumper crop and others not so much, but on average look about the same. That doesn’t mean it’s the same story where they live of course.

Probably worded it poorly though.

So you provided actual data. That is good. That was exactly what they were asking - to use real data and not anecdotes from memory.

I didn't provide any anecdotes but I would point out that even if evidence is just an anecdote, it doesn't mean it's wrong.

My grand-father lived through WW2. I’d say he was able to give a recollection of memories and experiences that are not found in any books and even though I agree that “good sources for truth” may vary for the use-case, we shouldn’t bee (pun intended) too insecure about believing some of our “past-memory-gut-feel”/“anecdotes”. There is ample evidence about research being “sponsored by the right people showing the right results” or media outlets shaping certain opinions. And even though it may be true that the HN reader has a diverse set of sources to form an opinion - this isn’t necessarily right for “average people”. E.g., the effect and the implications of inflation. For decades I have been hearing that “there is no inflation on Europe, the currency is stable”; yet, recalling “what money could buy back then” stories - I probably get a different vibe. History often repeats itself and “true objective data” may either be spotty and distorted; I have probably grown old and cynic enough to say things like “maybe it’s a good idea to look into the past and remember real good what people said or saw...”

Driving on a highway for 10h without any bugs on it - common sight in Europe nowadays. 10years ago, I would need to handwash it after 3h on the highway. Anecdotes can be a very powerful tool for critical thinking.

I agree to an extent on most you’ve written but I do think we need to be careful too. A general insect decline (objective data points to this) seems to exist. But a single persons observation that they remember more fire flies than today doesn’t necessarily hold water. I replied to another response that I had a similar thought only to eventually realize I was biasing a small number of events from the past that were probably a standard deviation or more in the “lots of Fire flies” direction. I wasn’t considering all the times there weren’t.

Our brains do this. We key on certain experiences and memory favors the extreme. Over time our memory does distort. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. But that we should be careful with anecdotal memories to make generalized pr specific statements about today’s reality.

As for “history repeating itself” - does it? Or do historians who write history repeat themselves? Historians write about long sequences of events that seem inevitable and if only such and such action were taken then a disaster or triumph would have been avoided or accomplished. But the recording of select historical events is more a persons narrative - a story - rather than the actual past.

What are the motivations of the historian writing about the past? What have they negated? What have they chosen to focus on? What of their memories or the subjects they used to inform their history? Which people do you choose to understand what they “said or saw”?

What? He says he remembers fields full of fireflies. Why imply that it's memory distortion? I'm surrounded by fields and in the high point or July there are breathtaking displays of fireflies at night, and it's not my imagination. Why tell someone that they misremembered that?

I’m not saying that. Just asking if they remember an instance of it and comparing to a non-instance today.

I think I worded it poorly.

So true. We used to have fireflies everywhere when we were growing up. My daughter hasn't seen a single one in her 9 years in this beautiful world.

Lots of fireflies in my backyard every night, probably because it is partially flooded due to the record high water levels in the Great lakes. Have been trying to film them. But subpar results so far. I have a vintage 70-200 lens adopted to m4/3. It says macro on the lens, but I can't focus on anything close at all.

I have a similar lens that says macro but only focuses a tiny bit closer at the wide end. If you don’t want to buy a real macro lens try an 85-135mm prime with an extension ring.

No shortage of lightning bugs here either. The only thing killing them is the spiders.

You should definitely film that. I bet there are thousands of people that would watch a "firefly vs spider" death match on youtube.

So far I've only discovered the aftermath, drained husks hanging in a web. If I can catch a spider in the act though that would be great and I'd definitely film it.

My backyard in Louisiana has quite a few of them at night. I see probably 20 - 50 a night back there.

My backyard in Louisiana has zero, zilch, nada. However; when I lived in NYC, I would see them all of the time on riverside.

Lots of fireflies in Central Park as well.

Where in Louisiana?

Same in Ottawa, Ontario—only a few times a year, but when they're out, there are loads of them.

Lucky. I'm tempted to drive out to rural Ohio with my nephew to try to find some.

I have had similar realization with regard to simply mosquitoes. We used to have to put bug-nets on doors and windows to stop bugs flying in during the summer. Now, not needed anymore - at most we get one bug flying in per week.

Yup, North of Boston here, fairly woodsy area, too many years seeing too few firefiles, although this summer there were a few more than past years - I hope it's a growth trend!

Used to be 100's or 1000's of them during the peak in summer where I lived. Now it's a handful. This is out in a rural area, so urban lighting doesn't explain the decline.

If I had to wager money, I'd say it was a blight introduced by another insect. Around the same year I saw an invasion of Asian lady bugs, the firefly memories stop. There were literally millions and millions of those Asian lady bugs released or hatched one year.

Plenty of fireflies in my yard. As prevalent as ever [1]. This is just an anecdote, but I give that anecdote as another person who lives in a somewhat rural location.

Speaking of the lady bug explosion, this year they are incredibly rare [2]. Not sure why, but they went from being a massive nuisance to being a very rare sight (of any variety).

Humans are absolutely having a calamitous effect on insect life in a variety of dimensions, however on the flip side it does seem like insect populations massively fluctuate for entirely natural reasons. A bit of an early summer, or more rain in April, etc, and one insect type explodes and another wanes.

1 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24071745

2 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24071745

I've listened to this conversation several times without looking it up, so:


"Firefly populations are declining worldwide, for a variety of reasons.[25] Fireflies, like many other organisms, are directly affected by land-use change (e.g. loss of habitat area and connectivity), which is identified as the main driver of biodiversity changes in terrestrial ecosystems.[26] Pesticides and weed-killers have also been indicated as a likely cause of firefly decline.[27]"

"Finally, since fireflies depend on their own light to reproduce [28] they are also very sensitive to environmental levels of light and consequently to light pollution.[28][29] Multiple recent studies investigate deeply the effects of artificial night lighting on fireflies.[30][31]"

[25]: https://www.firefly.org/

Thank you. This should be the top comment.

If there is any increase due to the lock down, my speculation would be, that it is related to less cars on the streets.

Fireflies certainly are in decline in urban areas, and from that in a holistic population sense. The amount of natural areas continues to decline worldwide leading to reduced habitat for a lot of insects and animals.

However I was replying to someone who stated that they live in a rural area so lighting isn't the cause. I also live in a rural area, albeit on the edge of a very large city (e.g. there is the large light bubble on the horizon, actually from several large cities in each direction), and fireflies are absolutely rampant, and have been for years. My comments makes zero claims about the worldwide population of fireflies, or about how many fireflies there are in your or anyone else's backyard. In mine there are loads.

However it is a reality that localized ebbs and flows happen. Nature is prone to waxing and waning. The reproductive potential of many insects is so enormous that one year can be a dearth and the next overwhelming. Small seasonal weather variations, of the completely ordinary and natural kind, can dramatically impact the mix.

To go back to the ladybugs, specifically the Asian ladybugs, last year they were everywhere. Every corner would have a bunch of them. They'd get in the house and then smash into the ceiling near every pot light leaving discolorations (blood or something). This year I've seen barely a dozen or so all season. It's just a complete 180.

Aside - I swear I am not intending to be combative, but the citations make me recall a prior comment-


The Wikipedia page you link cites the second link you gave as its source to demonstrate the worldwide decline in fireflies. That citation cites nothing as its source but fond recollections of youth.

> To go back to the ladybugs, specifically the Asian ladybugs, last year they were everywhere. Every corner would have a bunch of them. They'd get in the house and then smash into the ceiling near every pot light leaving discolorations (blood or something). This year I've seen barely a dozen or so all season. It's just a complete 180.

To me, it sounds like your area experienced an intentional release of the Asian Lady bug last year. TBD if they kill off all your fireflies, obviously that's pure speculation on my part.

As far as firefly decline, I don't live on the edge of a city or town. I'm actually quite rural. There are two places I've seen the decline. My home and my family's cabin 2 states away, both very rural. There has been no significant habitat change in either area, both having forest and established farms, very little development over my lifetime.

This is not an effect I noticed gradually or recently. It was about 15+ years ago now. Fireflies basically just disappeared, all at once. The colors of the remaining fireflies in both locations are also different. They were previously a yellow-green glow, and have been replaced by a more white-bluish glow.

Anyway, I don't know what caused their decline, but it's very apparent, and light pollution has nothing to do with it in my area.

If your cabins are near farms it is very possible the firefly decline you possibly noticed was caused by the introduction of neonics in the 90s. They are incredibly destructive and are part of the reason for the european honeybee issues that have gotten so much press here in the US.

They are widely believed to be a major factor in the current decline of insects.

it does seem like insect populations massively fluctuate for entirely natural reasons

Spot on, this is usually the real explanation for the typical 'I saw none'/'oh but I saw a bunch'/'I saw more than ever' rethoric applied to one single year or even multiple years of observations. Thinking of it, goes for basically all slowish trends related to nature. Unless you're approaching it scientifically, i.e. actual systematic counting which is hard btw, it's oh so easy to be fooled. That being said, see other post: yes fireflies are in decline (just like many other insects unfortunately) and light pollution is a factor.

I assume fireflies are declining from the loss of habitat, along with so many other insect species. The speculation about light being a cause seems logical, but is unproven. Indeed, even the population variations of fireflies is unproven -- the wiki citation in the other link uses as its authority a cite that merely notes that they recall more when they were kids. It is an extremely poor quality citation (but it will play well on HN).

"Doom!" is a very seductive narrative that we fall to regarding virtually every change in our environment. Sometimes reasonably, as with AGW, but other times just taking natural variations and screaming end times...then just going quiet when they recover again as we move to the next cause.

Habitat loss is a key factor, probably the key factor, but the reasearch around artifical night light and fireflies/glowworms goes way beyond 'recall more than they were kids' - not sure why you'd pick that as main argument from a Wikipedia page. See e.g. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/339213788_A_Global_... page 4 and beyond which reads

  Observational and experimental studies provide evidence hat ALAN adversely affects firefly populations. Several studies have shown negative correlations between high levels of ALAN and firefly abundance.
and mentions several studies regarding the subject (though also warns it's hard to pinpoint the main cause amongst the variety of other negative factors).

I was specifically responding to the Wikipedia extract.

The citation for the statement "Firefly populations are declining worldwide, for a variety of reasons" is a link to firefly.org. That is a small, Texas group that appreciates Fireflies, which is nice. But it is home to no studies, no research, no analysis. Nor does it (that group, or the wiki page that was cited to apparently refute my personal anecdote...) cite the publication you mention. So I'm not really sure what we're discussing here.

I'm not disagreeing that there is a decline for a multitude of reasons, or that light is probably bad, but if someone says "my yard has no fireflies the apocalypse is upon us" it probably isn't credible.

> Humans are absolutely having a calamitous effect on insect life in a variety of dimensions

This is incredibly obvious to be in my neighborhood. My landlord (very regretfully) has a company spray insecticide in our yard. There are no bugs, not a single bug sound.

The area I live in has many nature conscious people so about 1/10th of the yards are gardens, wildflowers, etc rather than grass. Just walking by them you hear a tremendous symphony of bugs! Then it almost entirely goes away in the next yard that is just grass.

In a local park there is about 1/4 acre that is only mown every couple of years as a "pollinator friendly" prairie-ish area, and the number of fireflies in just that section is astonishing. There are just hundreds and hundreds, it's beautiful.

Thinking about the increasing suburbanization of the US makes me sad. We subsidize this lifestyle so heavily here that it doesn't make sense to live anywhere else, but the land use is just awful.

It's not even wildlife and plants. I'm in southwest Ohio and the closest reasonably dark sky spot is almost 2 hours away. My S/O and I have been to some dark sky viewings hosted by a local observatory about 45 minutes away. I have really good night vision and can just barely see the milky way. My S/O /thought/ she could see it, but only realized the magnitude when we went to this national forest 2 hours away. It made me sad that she hadn't been able to see some of the wildness of our world.

I truly hope the "suburban dream" that has been pushed for so many decades starts dying off, so at least some of the wild areas in the US remain intact. There's already so little in the midwest.

We moved into a home last year with a ‘nice’ boomer lawn maintained with all the chemicals (there were almost 10 types of insect killer sprays in the basement, each for a different genus).

When digging for some conduit, my toddlers kept wanting to find worms in the dirt and waited in excitement as I dug about a yard of dirt.

No bugs, no worms.


... and all those wonderful chemicals were rinsed up into groundwater, or a river...

Where are you, that I might voyage to your mystical land and once again gaze upon the gentle twinkle of firefly lights?

My neighborhood in Queens NYC has hundreds every night

I saw a bunch last month here in Kansas City. I might get a lot more because I have a walking trail behind me, so there's no lights in my back yard.

I was driving though Nebraska a few months ago and there were so many fireflies it looked like a scene out of Avatar.

Yeah I feel the same. I recently felt pretty astonished after seeing them again once I went out in the woods.

I saw more than I've seen in many years the other night. Seems to just depend on the area.

Last time I've seen a firefly must have been at least ten years ago.

and to your children, it will be the way nature always was.

i live in brooklyn, the nearby parks have plenty of fireflies around dusk

German side streets are fairly dark already. This change will affect ‘large’ polluters, eg. floodlights in car parks, outside store areas, brightly lit buildings, etc. It is a very welcomed change. In our neighbourhood ppl knowingly plant flowers and leave grass grow ‘wild’ to support insects.

I’ve left about a third of my garden as a wild “meadow” and it has been full of flowers and bumblebees all summer. Even the municipality has left some lawns in the parks uncut for the benefit of wild flowers and bees. (Sweden btw)

Yes, German streets are quite dark. Some villages even close the lights at midnight.

This kind of make sense. Even in busy cities there are not many ppl walking around at night in Germany (less weekends). Most areas outside of the cities are completely dead at night. Also, general safety is very good. (At least where I have been so far)

This will be great for stargazing as well then!

As a budding stargazer I hope this dark-nights idea spreads to other countries.

Light pollution has the potential to get even worse with LED lighting which is no longer filterable like sodium lighting was.

I live in a fairly rural area in Germany and even if the nightsky is perfectly clear the cities in the distance cast a bright haze into the sky. They aren't that dark...

This reminds me of the movie Logan´s run all the time. The cites under their bubbles. Our's don't have the bubble over them, but look very similar from afar. All the illuminated haze. Fortunately I'm living right at the edge of one such large bubble, and can flee it within 30 minutes on a bicycle.

Yes. Light pollution leaks out pretty far away from the source. I don't know if there's any patch of land in Europe now where light pollution is zero. Maybe in a few places in Scandinavia.

Death Valley in California has pristine night skies. I cannot even begin to describe how different it is. Think - fine diamond dust on black velvet. There are stars everywhere you look. Amazing.

There are still some spots with near-zeron light pollution in Europe, but those are getting smaller.

The most preserved one is surely around the Pic du Midi in French pyrenees. It is actually an Dark Sky Reserve since 2013.

And according to this map¹, North of Scotland seems a good spot too, among others.

1 : https://avex-asso.org/dossiers/pl/europe-2016/ (in French, but the colors are pretty self-explanatory)

Yes, in this part of Portugal[1] it's almost zero. It's really really beautiful at night, it feels like in a dream.


Even sometimes insanely dark. About five years ago I went to see Sanssouci in the evening in winter. It was so dark that I couldn't even see my hand, let alone the palace.

I do this too but I get bylaw visits from the city. Which cities?

Search for wildflower seed bomb mix, you shouldn't get in trouble for this. My mom used to do this every year when I lived in Germany, looks pretty and zero maintenance.

These are great, but just remember to take care the seeds are for species indigenous to your region!

Cool idea, i have a garden and i hate maintaining it anyway.

Yes, very cool idea.

Dresden. Don’t get me wrong the gardens are neat but ppl keep longer grass, bushes, lots of flowers. Don’t know much about the laws in Germany (only recently moved here) but I can see that ppl care about their environment.

OK thanks.

I don't think any German cities bans you from having wild gardens. Quite the opposite, some cities consider banning people from replacing front yards with gravel.

I love this. Of course it's different if you're in a dangerous neighborhood, but if you're not, dark streets punctuated by orbs of light from reasonably bright street lights are romantic, mysterious, sometimes soothing. It makes that evening stroll a bit more magical.

I’m the city I lived, the street lamps turned on when they sensed someone in the vicinity and turned off again after some time.

So it’s not actually dark where you are and walking, it’s just dark where no one is.

I always just assumed that there are few insects now because there are so many more insecticides in use, this is the first time I've heard of lights. There's not much explaination in this article, but here's one with some more:

Nighttime Light Pollution May Be Cause of Insect Population Decline


"An analysis of the effects of artificial light at night on insects shows that there is strong evidence to suggest a link between nighttime light pollution and declines in insect populations."

It's a combination of factors. Insecticides, pollution, loss of habitat, light pollution(especially from daylight LEDs), global warming(throwing off reproduction timing), ubiquitous roadways and vehicles, flat surfaces(beetles get stuck on their back).

Douglas Tallamy, an entomologist at the University of Delaware, makes a convincing case that one factor is the replacement of native plants with (often showier) aliens which local insect populations can't eat. This then reduces the populations of birds which feed on those insects. Site for his books: http://www.bringingnaturehome.net/

I think, compared to twenty years ago, the main factor is the higher color temperature of modern lighting systems. There are numerous studies on cold light attracting insects significantly more than the traditional incandescent light sources.

Whenever I see someone claim a given problem is due to a combination of factors, I get a bit suspicious. First, this seems like a way to say "I don't really know the actual cause." Second, in the real world in situations like these, there is almost always one overwhelming factor that accounts for >60% of total influence. I really do wonder what that is because I like insects!

> in the real world in situations like these, there is almost always one overwhelming factor that accounts for >60% of total influence

That may be true when you're optimising a program, but is very much not true in ecology. The parent comment is generally correct with its list of drivers of biodiversity loss (compare the IPBES global summary: https://ipbes.net/global-assessment).

A key feature of ecology is its extreme complexity and the myriad factors at play in any given situation. Of course, there will be individual situations in which one factor is indeed dominant. Those cases actually often end up as textbook examples precisely because they are so rare, like the snowshoe hare/lynx Lotka-Volterra cycles. In most situations, researchers have to resort to some pretty advanced statistics to try and figure out what the most important factors are. There are almost always several, and getting any one factor to explain 60% of the variance is very rare. (That's why principle component analyses -PCAs- are so popular in ecological research papers.)

I studied ecology for a while, and have published a paper in the field. It works exactly the same way as any complex system. If you can't pinpoint a single factor, you're probably failing somewhere. To blame everything on "it's a complex system" is usually a cop out from lack of knowledge, whether the system is genuinely complex or not.

It's not just kind but application.

It's heartbreaking and happens at least once a year, that someone near conventional agriculture/horticulture is posting a desperate for advice in every forum they know about because some asshole upwind let a cloud of 'cide drift over their horticultural masterclass of a lot, and everything is shriveling.

Recompense can be hard to get. Maybe we need an ACLU meets EFF for biodiversity.

Let's ignore for a moment any agenda to ban monocultures, and look at not just the kind but the density. Pollinator species would be doing better if the monocultures weren't so seemless. We need a mosaic of habitat and to reduce the distances between the ones we have. But it's an uphill battle to maintain them in the face of drift and runoff (really I think we shouldn't be cultivating hilltops, that would be a start, and simply dodges the runoff problem)

This is good; we've badly underestimated the cost of excess light pollution.

Also good is using more LED street lamps that focus the light where we need it, rather than all over the place. Light pollution is bad, and street lights are very power hungry, with the old sodium lights consuming up to 0.25kWh per hour.

I think the impact of light and sound pollution is vastly underestimated. Sound and light pollution not only causes hidden environmental issues but also does damage to human health.

Suffering sound and light pollution is a hidden additional burden placed on lower economic status people.

Poor people experience health inequities due to increased exposure to light and sound, but more pressingly air pollution. [0]

The status of enjoying quiet is even clear in the middle class. You can even see the emerging divide on transit in who has noise cancelling headphones and who does not.

[0] https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsal...

> Also good is using more LED street lamps that focus the light where we need it,

Focusing light where needed is good. Using LEDs, as we do now, has downsides though. LED lighting in cities is making astronomy and astrophotography and even animal life worse in some cases.[1]

Traditional sodium vapour lights pollute around a wavelength of 589 nm.[2] That's the yellow/orange sky you used to see in the sky around cities. In theory, if you filtered out that wavelength 10 years ago, you'd be able to eliminate a lot of light pollution. But today, with more LED lighting, the pollution tends toward white/blue. This is "nicer" in some objective and subjective ways. e.g. colour accuracy. But it's a bitch to filter out, without also removing all the white and broad spectrum we want to see in the features of the night sky.

Animals are also sensitive to white and blue light emitted by modern LEDs, and the NatGeo link and others go into why this can be a bad thing, compared to "old fashioned" lighting methods, inefficient as they are.

[1] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/11/light-pollut...

[2] https://www.peterzelinka.com/blog/2019/8/light-pollution-fil...

We made LED lighting white because we wanted it. We can make yellow LED lighting as well. This should be suggested to city councils, if changing the wavelength would be beneficial to insects with no downsides.

I'd be so stoked for red street lights. They don't mess up your vision at night.

Indeed. Nor does red light mess as much with animal (incl. human) physiology and behaviour and waking cued by white/blue/daylight.

Potential small (safety?) downside: red light illumination does greatly reduce colour discrimination at night versus white light.

Belgium uses yellow light. And, unlike its neighbors, it has lights all along its interstates. Quite eerie to see when you’re not used to it.

Sodium lamps are very efficient. Saying that they consume up to 250W doesn't mean anything. There are LED lamps that consume much more.

Actually, cold LED light is part of the problem. Better focusing only mitigates the problem they are posing.

We can and certainly should fiddle around with different LED colors, to balance our need for illumination against the risk of environmental harm.

Can you explain what you mean about the risks of cold LED light? I'm unfamiliar with this problem

The basic light emitted by LEDs is generally quite cold (high color temperature). We can manufacture LEDs just in a few basic colors, where the blue ones are the most efficient. We haven't managed yet to produce something at scale like the light typically emitted by incandescent light bulbs. RGB light doesn't help here, since this is still emitting high temperature components, which are only mixed with lower energized ones. One way around this is using LEDs indirectly by energizing other light emitting materials, like phosphor, much like it is done in LED filaments, which, of course, comes at a cost. Simple filters don't help, since LEDs emit light only in a rather narrow spectrum (which is also, why they are more efficient compared to other light sources).

The problem with cold light is that it is apparently attracting insects much more than broad spectrum incandescent light sources, even more than any potential breeding partners, which in turn affects mating.

What cost? Looking back maybe 15 years all the experiments with CCFL and LEDs were more costly than the filaments i have now. They last longer, use less, AND make light which is pleasing and usable to me. Wheee! Almost candles!

edit: Last longer as in have already outlasted anything I had before them, the filaments I mean. Also not really more expensive to buy. And their energy usage is ridiculously low.

Cost as in efficiency. (Last time I looked, filaments were rated less efficient than direct light sources. However, they seem to become better.)

I'm not versed much in these filaments but from what I know, and your link, these are just phosphor-covered LEDs, right?

What is it about your current bulbs or the filament design that makes you not classify them as LEDs? The power use looks the same and the listed CRI of >=80 doesn't inspire confidence.

I didn't say that, or did I? Anyways, indeed they are chains of tiny LEDs in series, and the substrate they are embedded in is treated somehow. As I understand it, that gives the embedded LEDs a "Nachleuchtzeit"/ after glow like in the CRTs of old TVs and computer screns, which can vary, as it did with that old screen stuff too. Then there is the spatial thing, as they are spread out in the filament, you can actually look at them without being "blinded". It's more like the light radiates from a volume, softer, not from one sharp point. Not that it would matter that much, who has naked bulbs? As a result of all that there is no https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_(acoustics), no perceivable flickering at my power frequency of 50Hz. I think I'm sensitive to that, because the line/destination signs on public transportion do flicker for me when I and they both stand, not only when in motion.

Ah yes, the CRI. What can I say? I now have them everywhere, except the cellar. I prefer warm white, which they are. I can't see 'wrong' colors with them. Crosschecked that with a cassette of about 40 Faber-Castell color pencils right now, during my local morning twilight. Full spectrum.

Because "retro-fit" they fit in my old sockets. They just hit a sweet spot for me. I dim, or 'tune' them by using one to three circuits, the switches and my rooms are wired to allow for that.

Old, but not obsolete ;-)

Cold means high blue content. Blue light is the one that most disrupts insects, nocturnal animals, your night vision, your own sleep cycle, and contributes the most to obscuring the stars.

> and contributes the most to obscuring the stars

That part is not actually true. Any light will obscure the stars; if you want to compare different colors, it's the middle of the spectrum that contributes most, but the difference is small.

As an amateur astronomer, the LED lights are a big problem because their light pollution is hard to filter out. Sodium is easy, it's nearly monochromatic, so a simple filter will remove most of it. Mercury is not super-hard, the spectrum is not very broad and it's pretty uneven. But LEDs have a broad, even spectrum, which is impossible to filter out.

Take it up with IDA, I guess. My understanding is blue light scatters more in the atmosphere.


Here's a quite good video about the pros and cons of LED vs high/low-pressure sodium street lamps: https://youtube.com/watch?v=wIC-iGDTU40 . It goes into lamp efficiency, how our eyes see differently at night, response time under different sorts of light, color temperature, circadian rhythm disruption, and light pollution.

It's a good video, but it's also a case study in being 'almost right'. The almost-correct interpretations cascade and result in a faulty conclusion: that blue-white LED streetlights are better than orange-white streetlights. Various comments object to the faulty conclusion ([1], for example).

At the end he at least addresses his ignorance:

> [18:39] You may have noticed that I didn't talk about the blue light from LEDs, and how this is supposedly ruining our eyes. That's because the "science" behind this is questionable, at best.

> [18:55] [discussion of chart with percentage blue light of various light sources]

> [19:04] [...] but considering that our eyes can withstand the intensity of sunlight, which is far far greater than any normal artificial light source, and also has a lot of blue light, and ultraviolet, which definitely is harmful, I think the 'blue light' thing is just fear-mongering. If someone can point to some verified, peer-reviewed research supporting this, and not a dodgy website, I'll consider changing my stance. In any case, the high flexibility of LED technology means it can be tuned in pretty much any way we like.

The research on the harm of blue light is out there -- For example, one of the comments links to "Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology" [0]. (only partially read at this point - I don't know if this paper gets into the mechanism of damage done by blue light, as I understand it...)

The sun hangs high in the sky and casts light on everything. We never need to look at the sun directly, we use the sun's light indirectly, after it bounces off of things. The atmosphere scatters the sun's blue light before it gets to us [2]. Artificial lights hanging on poles emitting photons we can't avoid having beamed directly into our eyes... Blue photons have relatively higher energy levels, and different physiological effects, than orange photons... [note to self: expand on this.]

The preceding video was about High Pressure Sodium lights, which I thought was good too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1dMlVwUsrA

My transcription of the video's faulty conclusion (italics added):

> To conclude: although the High Pressure Sodium light is very efficient, its primary output color is misaligned with our nighttime visibility. Only about 1/4 of its light is actually effective at stimulating the cells in our eyes. Although the cool color temperatures of many LED replacements is harsh and aesthetically displeasing, studies have shown that it is not only more efficient, but also makes driving at night safer. There is, however, the potential for greater circadian rhythm disruption and larger amounts of skyglow, using these bluer light sources.

> Still, it seems clear that the High Pressure Sodium is on its way out. Advancements in LED technology are happening at a breakneck pace. Just 10 years ago, they weren't seen as viable, but today even the least efficient of LED replacements ends up emitting the efficiency of High Pressure Sodium once scotopic light output is considered.

> As it stands in 2018, we are faced with the choice of efficiency over aesthetics. I'm pretty sure I'd enjoy roadways lit with relatively-warm 3000K LEDS, and these also wouldn't disrupt sleep much. But you can save a lot more energy, and potentially have safer roadways, with 5700K lighting.

> Either way, it seems clear that LED technology will very soon overtake the tried-and-true High Pressure Sodium lamp, just as the High Pressure Sodium itself replaced the mercury-vapor lamp. And in 40 or 50 years, who knows what technology might light our roadways.

[0] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/pdf/mv-... - "The radically different power spectrums can look similar when viewed directly by the eye, irrespective of how much blue emission is present."

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIC-iGDTU40&lc=Ugx6MYdsMY6I_...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rayleigh_scattering#Cause_of_t...

edit: this page has a discussion of drop-sag lights vs. proper fully-shielded lights: http://www.skykeepers.org/good-bad-lights-cv.html

Thanks, I appreciate the thorough follow-up. :)


Which over an hour is 0.25kWh.

Sodium lamps are actually pretty efficient at around 125 lm/W, SOX lamps do over 200 lm/W.

Yes, but it's like saying: the distance he walked is 5km per hour for one hour. Easier to just say 5km.

North Korea must be swimming in insects. https://i.imgur.com/S1mrMKN.jpg

They also use pesticides pretty liberally.

But there is a somewhat interesting paper on North Korean entomology: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3554493/

This is one of those areas where I actually am in favor of some pretty tight regulation; photons spraying about leads to a tragedy of the commons rather quickly.

Drive around -- billboards are lit up at night. Headlights might as well be pointed into the sky and are blinding. Stores are scarcely less well-lit when they are closed than during operating hours. I can go for a walk at night and read a paperback the whole way. Porchlights are left on all night, for no good reason.

Sometimes, on a my regular trips to visit a friend, we go out at around one in the morning to a road far from other towns and I can actually see the faint haze of the Milky Way, but in the suburbs, I am lucky to pick out thirty stars and/or planets. I don't even think that all of this constant light makes us any "safer."

Funny thing is that we mostly turn on the lights to keep burglars at bay. I don't have the link but there was some article pointing out that burglars also don't really like dark places. Like using flashlight inside of dark building can easier give out break in. Burglars are also people so they kind of scared of what might be in the dark, like you might miss something on the floor and break your leg or arm and then you would be stuck at the place you broke in.

While it's difficult to get hard numbers, the estimations for the decline in insect populations range from 70% to 90% since the 1980 (for some areas).

Given that insects are one of the corner stones of our ecosystem, we can congratulate ourselves that we are very successful in destroying our own life support systems through predatory exploitation and sheer carelessness.

Well done.

Wow. I have to say that I have never considered the case where insects needed to be saved. It seems to me that as lifeforms go, they have been the most durable form of multi-cellular life on the planet.

That said, that there are negative systemic effects on the planet's ecosystems that are directly related to the massive production and use of herbicides and pesticides is not as surprising.

Light though? Even after reading that article and looking through scholar.google to find papers that associate lighting with insect decline, I'm not convinced the use of lighting at night has a material impact. The ratio of unlit/lit habitat seems wildly in favor of unlit.

And yes, I understand that unlit areas are often agricultural, and those areas contain the most insecticide/herbicides. It still appears to me that the root cause is the use of those products in farms and not that cities are poor replacement habitats.

Sound is also actually quite problematic. Flowers can use vibrations to detect the presence of a nearby pollinator insect and makes itself more appealing. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/flowers-sweeten-wh...

The sound pollution might have the adverse effect of causing some plants to lose this ability to preserve energy for reproduction, indirectly impacting insects via the food chain.

Currently, due to the massive use of chemicals in the countryside, cities start to be havens for insects. There is a lot of beehives in London for example (too much actually according to a beekeeper I talked with). Until we manage to massively shift the way we do agriculture it might make sense to make it as safe as possible for insects in urban areas.

Just to be clear, I'm a fan of cutting down light pollution for legitimate reasons (energy conservation, astronomical observation, and wildlife protection) but I twitch at reasons that are either exaggerated or misleading. I felt that throwing in lights along with the pesticide limitations was not a well motivated argument.

My experience has shown that when people are skeptical of your argument they are less likely to comply voluntarily and so the good that you hoped to do is lost and you have damaged your credibility with the people you need to support these ideas.

A small example of this in action was back in 2010 when Google decided they were going to stop stocking bottled water in the fridges around campus because the "energy waste and plastic disposal problem." The only problem was that Google regularly achieved over 95% capture of recyclable trash out of their bins and the energy saved was on the order of maybe half a dozen employees not commuting from San Francisco.

The real reason they wanted to do this was of course cost. They could replace bottled water with filtered dispensers and that would save them a few pennies per employee per month. I had a good conversation with some folks in charge that they could have said, "We're giving every employee an insulated water bottle in your choice of size and color (12, 20, 32, or 40 oz) that you can keep at the office and use to get water from our fancy new dispensers. This will save us money, AND its better for the environment." That would have been honest and gotten a good reception I believe with the rank and file. But dressing up the reason in a cover story that everyone easily poking holes in simply lowered morale and confidence in management.

I'm also completely in favor of reducing lights or even banning LED light bulbs, which in my opinion are also harmful to humans. Let's raise fuel prices by 100% and go back to incandescent!

But you correctly hint at the actual reason for German politics:

Nothing that hurts the economy like banning pesticides or cars will be done. So a scapegoat is needed, in this case the lights.

> The ratio of unlit/lit habitat seems wildly in favor of unlit.

Depends on where. Germany has a very different structure due to its population density than most parts of the US, for example, with comparably less unlit habitat.

So that may be a less important issue in some places but having enough suitable space for themselves in the US doesn't help insects in Germany.

It very well could be less of a problem than roundup, but at the same time it's good for everyone I think, that we turn off the lights at night. If only to see the stars.

Even if the light doesn't have a quantifiable effect on insects, would it not be wise to reconsider the extended use in absolute "off-hours"?

I think in general all our life quality will improve if we significantly reduce light polution. Not to mention the energy savings. Sometimes I forget how beautiful the night sky is just because I'm usually so blind to it.

Do you remember the time when you had to clean your windshield after driving into holidays?

> The windshield phenomenon is the observation that recently fewer dead insects accumulate on the windshields of people's cars. It has been attributed to a global decline in insect populations caused by human activity.

> The research also found that modern cars, with a more aerodynamic body shape, killed more insects than boxier vintage cars up to 70 years old.


I just finished a two-week road trip from Berlin to the Black Forest and back (with other stops in both directions). The windshield was gunked up by the end—more than I expected, but nothing like what I remember from my childhood.

Same here. About two years ago we traveled through Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and had quite some insect gunk on the wind shields. When I told my parents, they said "we used to have that after an hour of driving" (and presumably they went slower than we do today, not having access to fast cars in their youths).

Cars are actually more aerodynamically shaped nowadays. But riding a motorcycle will give you the same result today as 20 years ago. To which I must say: yes, the insects seem to be back in larger numbers this year. At least in Germany.

But not everywhere: the less farm land, the more insects. Like, from literally none on farm land to "I have to completely clean my helmet because of all that yellow goo" in larger forests.

> The research also found that modern cars, with a more aerodynamic body shape, killed more insects than boxier vintage cars up to 70 years old.


I haven't read the complete study but it appears that they only measured the impacts on the license plate? If so, this doesn't seem like good methodology because the license plate is only a very small part of the vehicle and position can vary wildly between brands and models. The license plate can be the most forward facing part but also be in a little cutout of the front fender.

It’s a great example of Scientisim and not Science. Of course the result confirms the popular narrative, so it will be cited without question. But the dead-obvious observation would be that by definition aerodynamic things tend to impact less, it’s literally what they’re designed to do.

Yap, this is the saddest thing. After a month long road trip around Europe the windshield & front air vent were almost clean.

Insects are spread out over more cars now.

Interesting way to look at it. But logically sound.


Quite a bit of this is owed to traffic patterns and windshield glass changes though

Yes, last week. Driving from Texas to Wyoming and back. Tons of splattered insects.

I did a one week roadtrip from California to Colorado this summer and had to clean my windshield at every gas station due to splattered bugs. It’s my first real roadtrip so I don’t have any basis for comparison.

Yes it happened two days ago.

Well as I have posted before, my neighborhood went full LED last year with street lights and so every night is like a full moon. This has become widespread not just in subdivisions but everywhere as people see LED lighting as free.

Perhaps they were a bit oversold.

The low cost can definitely drive the wrong design. But if a redo is being done, it's an opportunity to turn down power levels, use better shielding, etc. Modern LED lights can provide the same visual acuity at both less power as well as less lux, and with less light spillover.

In the U.S. town and city budgets have a pretty steady lighting investment component.

Because LED’s got so inexpensive, instead of saving money, the savings was used to increase the town luminosity.

Now, because we moved away from sodium lights, the amount of daytime-like blue light being emitted during the night has skyrocketed.


This seems like a great idea, and could also be a nice boon for those of us who like to see the stars. Light pollution is a personal frustration for me as I’ve always enjoyed stargazing but am rarely able to drive far enough out to see very much.

This would be great for amateur astronomers too.

And the sales of insect repellent.

I used to point this out to hipster trendies who illuminate their trees at night. Don't they consider nocturnal life that are dependent on solar cycles for proper circadian rhythms? Seems disruptive. I got the impression the trees were a bit miffed.

Having light polution in your habitat during night cycles can make certain plants mutate or make them hermaphrodite while growing indoors. The light from a socket distributor might be enough.

This is such a great idea. I hope the insecticide regulations go far to restrict some of the worst offenders. Insects, arachnids, and all of our invertebrate, carapace flaunting friends are essential to our health and survival.

I hope my country will follow suit...

...and get better sleep.

Amen. I would kill for this. I keep my own outside lights off, so there's a bit less blindy light pollution on my end of the street. It's the same reason I never report the nearby street lights when they go out.

The best outdoor light is less.

Ahem... I seem to recall that the masts of most streetlights are rather thin. Which meant that one could kick them a few times in ways that make the mast swing. Which could be rather large and abrupt swings at the top, which led to "Wackelkontakt"/ loss of contact, and thus darkness. It was even reversible!

Your own personal kick switch for public street lights!

The way that ("Lampen austreten") works is because the vibration causes the plasma to "disembark" from the electrodes, which opens the electrical circuit, which prevents further power flow into the lamp, which lets the plasma cool down quickly. There's a thermal cutoff switch in the lamp that prevents it from re-igniting on a hot lamp, so the entire lamp needs to cool down before it turns back on.

That could be the case, but at the time I felt it was of more mechanical nature. Because in my case they didn't turn back on, not for days, until kicked back into working order.

I've used high lumen, hand-held lights to kill streetlights. I haven't found a spectrum of laser that works, yet.

Nice. I've got a red but it's probably too low power. My green and blue are 1W & 3W but they're too low a wavelength. High powered reds are relatively cheap. I'll look into it.

That's a good way to get in trouble, and rightfully so. We're not having streetlights because we want to kill insects, we have them for safety reasons. You do not want to travel in absolute darkness in a city with cars around.

Trying to interfere with that because you're too lazy to buy a black-out curtain is a terrible idea.

What if I'd like to be able to see some stars from my bed? Furthermore, not every light, sign makes sense at the place it is. They are mostly stamped out at regular intervals "because we say so".

> What if I'd like to be able to see some stars from my bed?

"My comfort should trump everyone's safety"? Still no.

And the cars you spoke of are stealthed, running dark, or what?

/me shakes head and thinks "Here is your sign! Hold it!"

I'll take "what?" - with "what?" being my headlights only point straight ahead. They don't curve with the road or illuminate the sides of the roads where kids/animals can dart out. I live in a neighborhood with lots of kids and pets. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S038611121...

"Anything that smells like safety automagically justifies the damage it does. Only monsters want less appearance of safety."

Cars have headlights.


I had a big orange street lamp hanging right in front of my bedroom for years.

In Germany you can generally call the city office and complain and they will put some metal there to block the light from falling into your house. It might be an option in other locations as well.

Don't houses in Germany, and western Europe, have blinds ? I only had this night light issue when living in the US

Not everywhere in Germany, or in Western Europe for that matter.

I cannot explain why many regions that are fairly up North don't have solid outdoor blinds or shutters.

They often do, and those are quite handy, but fully closing off your bedroom windows can be bad since you won't wake up with the light and sleeping with an open window is not possible.

(Plus, the major temperature control move in summer Germany is to open everything possible at night and close it during the day. If you have mostly cool nights and good insulation that is sufficient.)

Where did you find a house in the US without blinds? I honestly don't think I've ever seen one without some sort of window covering. The solid exterior blinds that I slightly prefer are much less common in the US, but both still block light adequately in my experience.

Everywhere I slept in California, from SF to LA and a few places in between had these awful vertical blinds which can't even block moonlight: https://persianascanet.com/wp-content/uploads/Verticales-PVC...

We were able to do that for an alley light here in small-town Minnesota USA.

Glad to see they're on to this. However, I gather that this is still a "Referentenentwurf" - i.e. a first draft written up by the ministry staff. This still needs to be approved by the cabinet before even going into parliamentary proceedings. So it's hard to say just how much will actually come of this.

One summer night I stopped at this petrol station in a woodland area - the neon panels had many inches of dead insect in them. Tens of thousands of specimen, just like that.

One of the mistakes I see being made is replacing old orange/yellow halogen bulbs with white/"blue" LED streetlights.

This is wrong. They should stick to ~2500K bulbs.

Can you get even darker? Streetlights in Berlin (for example) are already uncomfortably dim.

Exactly, I hate driving at night in Berlin, because of the insufficient lighting.

I'm not German, but I'm in favor of reducing light pollution in general. I like being able to at least kinda see the night sky.

There's technology now to put streetlamps on motion detectors. They can have them very dim until they're needed.

We have one street like this here in Grenoble. I was so freaked out the first time I walked there, since the lights dimmed up gradually, so it took me a couple of times to be sure I'm not imagining things. :P

I feel like that would be nauseating for residents on heavily trafficked roads

Maybe there should't be residents near heavily trafficked roads at all.

Why exactly do you think they’re heavily trafficked?

Then I would be kicked off my suburban street

I always wonder how much of the reduction in cleaning of glass can be attributed to better aerodynamics and better glass.

Motor cyclists and bicyclists tell the same. I as a bicyclist do too. Because apart from the sting of the wind in the eyes it was necessary to drive with sports glasses/lenses/some visor because otherwise you'd be almost certainly hit by insects in the face or eye. That isn't the case anymore. There simply are less of them in the air.

I wish more places would do this. It would be amazing for plantlife, wildlife and amateur astronomy.

I am wondering, is there any benefit to having insects in cities specifically? I would understand if this was a law specifically for rural enviroment but what is the benefit for this in the city?

Also, other than bees, which insects specifically benefit humans?

My experience in Germany was that a lot of small streets were already pretty dimly lit...

Light pollution seems to be a good thing to suppress in general (a bonus for astrological sight-seeing). Could one factor be that constant light negatively affects insect (and plant) circadian rhythms?

I think you meant "astronomical" sight-seeing? ;-)

Yes, constant light does have a strong effect on animal circadian rhythms, but for insects, the problem is rather that they exhaust themselves from flying around the light source too long.

Also Germany: Shuts down nuclear plants and lights up more coal plants.

More coal plants is incorrect and the shutdown of the nuclear power plants was planned anyway. Since the mid 1980s no less...

Basically most of the plants that were shut down simply didn't get their runtime extended again and would've been shut down in a few years anyway.

And the utility companies owning them get billions in compensation and don't have o pay for waste disposal of all the irradiated parts either...

Facts that nuclear proponents always conveniently ignore...


> What is expected to be the last new coal plant to come online in Germany entered commercial operation on May 30, more than a decade after it was first planned.

> The 1,100-MW Datteln 4 power plant, owned by Uniper and located in Datteln in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, opened despite the German government’s stated plan to end coal-fired power generation in the country.

This reminds me of my local cities new flashy sport arena. The sport arena has flood lights to make a UFO landing look good. Cant see anything of the night sky with these on. It is also using a lot of power.

I remember star nights walking outside as a kid seeing the Milky way Galaxy full of stars.

As for ordinary street lights, the purpose of street lights are for crime prevention, but there is motion sensors. Do we really need to have the lights on with no one on a street?

Do they have any places outside of cities and towns that these insects might thrive in Germany?

Stop mowing your lawn (perhaps back yard) and you'll see a ton of insects (huge grasshoppers, big spiders, ants, etc) by the end of summer. mowing lawns hurts insects also

Talking about dimming lights: Life tip: At night after dinner, turn off all the lights of your house. Use only weak led lights. You'll sleep much better, feel better and save on energy bills.

This is awesome , I wish more countries did the same. Also good news for stargazers, you see more stars at night when city lights are dim or use protection to avoid light pollution.

this is great. also, why must every stinking device have a light letting you know the device is on or sleeping or whatever. so annoying. monitors, printers, cable modems, routers, everything has freaking, annoying blinking lights. i have to use dark tape to cover it all.

Wonder if this will increase crime rates...


Most german towns have virtually no crime to begin with and I doubt this will change because lights are dimmer.

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