Totally buggin’: A scientist is developing an LED that attracts fewer insects

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Insects can quickly put a damper on any outdoor gathering, and unfortunately, many of them are attracted to artificial lighting. Luckily, someone is working on this problem, which may mean longer summer nights under the starry sky in the future.

Travis Longcore, a professor of spatial sciences at the University of California, has been working closely with Royal Philips on the issue, according to the New York Times. Their goal is to create a bulb that doesn’t attract pesky insects as soon as it’s switched on.

To tackle the problem, Longcore has been experimenting with Philips LED bulbs that mix red, white, blue, and green light. In his trials, he tested the bulbs against standard LEDs and CFLs at night, hanging them over insect traps in the Santa Monica Mountains. Longcore found that he could tune the Philips LED bulbs to attract 20 percent fewer insects. His results were published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

“For all invertebrate orders combined, our custom LED configurations were less attractive than the commercial LED lamps or CFLs of similar color temperatures,” Longcore wrote in his study abstract. “Thus, adjusting spectral composition of white light to minimize attracting nocturnal arthropods is feasible.”

Over the years, LEDs have not always been popular among consumers. Many people prefer the “warm” glow of incandescent bulbs, as well as the cheaper price. However, the prices of LEDs are falling, making them more widely available. Now, Longcore says his goal is to create an energy-efficient bulb that could not only deter bugs but provide a similar glow.

It’s worth noting that insect-repelling bulbs could also one day have a positive impact on global health. Many insects, such as mosquitoes, carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans. By reducing their attraction to artificial light, outdoor lovers might be able to avoid them more easily.

At the very least, a bug-deterring bulb would make camping, barbecuing, and other warm-weather activities more enjoyable.

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