Could LED insect discovery help to beat Zika and malaria?

A study completed by academics at Bristol University has found that LEDs attract significantly less insects than other light sources. The paper suggests that the heat emitted by light sources has more of an effect on insect attraction than the colour of the light.

The discovery could be beneficial to nations in South America and Africa that are fighting mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and Malaria.

The researchers considered a number of different light sources ranging from a tungsten filament lamp to fluorescent light sources and white LEDs.

Significant differences were found in each case, with the tungsten filament lamp being by far the most attractive to insects, capturing 80 percent of the insects counted in the study.

LEDs were found to be the least attractive captivating the attention of half as many insects (in this case midges) as the fluorescent light source.

‘The heat given off by the filament lamp was a factor in attraction as this is a recreation of body warmth, which entices biting insects’ Gareth Jones, Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol, told Lux Magazine.

Insects have also been proved to be more sensitive to the short wavelengths of light produced by LED light sources.

The effect that replacing light sources in Africa and South America with LED could have on malaria, Zika and dengue fever case numbers is unknown.

However, Bristol University, in cooperation with Integral LED, who provided money and LED warm and cool lighting fixtures to assist with the research, are planning to carry out a further investigation in Africa.

‘It is quite a big leap to make the statement that LED can reduce cases of mosquito-borne diseases, but it is highly likely that insects in Africa would react in the same way as there is a general trend to suggest that insects are sensitive to short wavelengths of light,’ Professor Jones continued.

‘If you are installing lighting then LED might be appropriate where there are biting insects. LED won’t repel insects and it won’t eradicate them, it just will not attract them,’ Andrew Gooding, technical and compliance manager at Integral LED told Lux Magazine.

Closer to home the information could be useful in the Highlands of Scotland, which often suffers from a serious midge problem during the summer months.

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