Artificial light at night drives diel activity patterns of synanthropic pipistrelle bats and their prey

Claire Hermans* (Corresponding author), Iryna Litovska, Mélyssa de Pastors, M.E. Visser, K. Spoelstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


The use of artificial light at night (ALAN) has increased drastically worldwide over the last decades. ALAN can have major effects on nocturnal communities, including insects and bats. Insects are attracted to street lights and few bat species take advantage of this by foraging on the attracted insects. ALAN potentially affects the temporal patterns of insect abundance and thereby bat foraging behaviour. In a natural dark environment, these patterns are usually bimodal, with an activity peak in the early evening and the morning. Little is known about how ALAN affects insect presence throughout the night, and whether the light spectrum plays a role. This is important, as these temporal changes may be a key driver of disturbances in bat-insect interactions. Here, we studied how white and red light affect insects' and bats' nightly activity patterns. The activity of insects and bats (Pipistrellus spp.) was recorded throughout the night at seven experimentally illuminated sites in a forest-edge ecosystem. ALAN disrupted activity patterns, with both insects and bats being more active throughout the night. ALAN facilitated all-night foraging in bats especially near white light, but these effects were attenuated near red light. The ability to forage throughout the night may be a key advantage causing synanthropic bats to dominate in illuminated environments, but this could also prove detrimental in the long term. As red light reduced disturbing effects of ALAN on insects and bats diel activity pattern, it opens the possibility of using spectral composition as a mitigation measure.
Original languageEnglish
Article number173699
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date11 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jun 2024


  • light pollution
  • bats
  • light colour
  • insects
  • foraging behaviour
  • prey-predator interaction


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