Have you ever been sitting outside on a warm summer night when suddenly a moth starts frantically flying around your face? It’s like the little guy is drawn to your face for some reason.
Moths flying at your face can be annoying, but there’s a logical explanation for this behaviour. In this blog post, we’ll explore why moths are so attracted to your face, whether they come around at night, and why butterflies don’t act the same way.
Why Do Moths Fly at Your Face?
Moths fly at your face because they are attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale. Your breath contains high carbon dioxide levels, which moths have receptors to detect. They interpret the carbon dioxide as a signal that there is food nearby.
Moths cannot see well, so they rely on smell to find flowers and other nectar sources. During the day, they follow fragrant flower scents. But at night, flowers no longer produce those smells. So moths turn to locate carbon dioxide emissions to lead them to a sugary meal.
Since humans and other animals exhale carbon dioxide, a moth senses that “signal” and heads straight for your face. They think your breath means there must be a tasty flower nearby. But when they get close, they realize the carbon dioxide came from you.
Another reason moths fly at your face is because they are attracted to light. Your eyes reflect light, just like lamps and other light sources. So if you have a bright light near you outdoors, it can draw moths close enough to pick up on the CO2 from your breath and dart around your head.
Moths are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. That’s why they tend to fly at your face more when sitting outside in the dark. During the day, they rest in dark hiding spots. But once night falls, the moths emerge seeking food. Your brightly lit porch or campfire combined with exhaled carbon dioxide is like a moth magnet!
Why Don’t Butterflies Fly At Your Face Like Moths?
Butterflies and moths are closely related insects. But unlike moths, butterflies are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. They don’t have the solid attraction for artificial lights or carbon dioxide sources that draws moths to your face. Here are a few key differences that explain why butterflies don’t fly at your face:
- Butterflies rely more on vision. While moths use scent as their primary sense, butterflies depend far more on sight. Their enormous, vividly coloured wings are meant to attract mates, not guide them via scent. This makes them less likely to follow CO2 trails.
- Butterflies eat flower nectar. Butterflies sip sugary nectar from flowers during daylight hours. So they don’t need to seek alternate food sources like moths do at night. Your breath is irrelevant to their meal plans!
- Butterflies avoid high winds. Moths don’t seem to mind blustery conditions. But butterflies avoid flying in high winds where they can’t control their path. Your exhaled breath creates wind currents that butterflies steer clear of.
- Butterflies rest at night. Unlike nocturnal moths, butterflies remain inactive at night. They cling to plants or crevices to conserve energy when they can’t see flower colours or access nectar. So they won’t be flying around your face in the dark.
The next time a moth gets too close for comfort at night, remember it is just following its hard-wired instincts. Meanwhile, butterflies will continue focusing their attention on flowers and mating displays rather than your CO2 emissions during the day. Understanding the unique ways these insects operate can make their pesky behaviour seem a little less annoying!