Why do red and dark-coloured cars lure aquatic insects? The attraction of water insects to car paintwork explained by reflection-polarization signals

G. Kriska, Zoltán Csabai, Pál Boda, Péter Malik, Gábor Horvát

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

56 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We reveal here the visual ecological reasons for the phenomenon that aquatic insects often land on red, black and dark-coloured cars. Monitoring the numbers of aquatic beetles and bugs attracted to shiny black, white, red and yellow horizontal plastic sheets, we found that red and black reflectors are equally highly attractive to water insects, while yellow and white reflectors are unattractive. The reflection-polarization patterns of black, white, red and yellow cars were measured in the red, green and blue parts of the spectrum. In the blue and green, the degree of linear polarization p of light reflected from red and black cars is high and the direction of polarization of light reflected from red and black car roofs, bonnets and boots is nearly horizontal. Thus, the horizontal surfaces of red and black cars are highly attractive to red-blind polarotactic water insects. The p of light reflected from the horizontal surfaces of yellow and white cars is low and its direction of polarization is usually not horizontal. Consequently, yellow and white cars are unattractive to polarotactic water insects. The visual deception of aquatic insects by cars can be explained solely by the reflection-polarizational characteristics of the car paintwork.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1667-1671
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume273
Issue number1594
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Fingerprint

aquatic insects
Insects
automobile
Railroad cars
polarization
insect
Polarization
insects
Water
Light
water
plastics
Coleoptera
Beetles
Deception
monitoring
Plastics
Plastic sheets
Roofs
roof

Keywords

  • Aquatic insects
  • Car paintwork
  • Polarization vision
  • Polarotaxis
  • Visual deception
  • Visual ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Why do red and dark-coloured cars lure aquatic insects? The attraction of water insects to car paintwork explained by reflection-polarization signals. / Kriska, G.; Csabai, Zoltán; Boda, Pál; Malik, Péter; Horvát, Gábor.

In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 273, No. 1594, 2006, p. 1667-1671.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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