Why do highly polarizing black burnt-up stubble-fields not attract aquatic insects? An exception proving the rule

György Kriska, Péter Malik, Zoltán Csabai, Gábor Horváth

Research output: Article

16 Citations (Scopus)


Horizontal black surfaces are usually very attractive to polarotactic aquatic insects, since they generally reflect highly and horizontally polarized light, and thus imitate water surfaces. We monitored highly polarizing black burnt-up stubble-fields, but surprisingly never found aquatic insects or their carcasses in the ash, although flying polarotactic insects were abundant in the area, which we showed by attracting them to horizontal black plastic sheets. To explain this observation, we measured the reflection-polarization characteristics of burnt-up stubble-fields in the red (650 nm), green (550 nm) and blue (450 nm) parts of the spectrum at three directions of view relative to the solar meridian. We established that (i) the degree of linear polarization p of light reflected from the black ash is high; (ii) p is the higher, the darker the ash; (iii) the direction of polarization of reflected light is nearly horizontal only towards the solar and antisolar meridians, and it is tilted in other directions of view; (iv) the standard deviation of both the degree and the direction of polarization of reflected light is large. The latter two characteristics explain why burnt-up stubble-fields are unattractive to aquatic insects. These results may be important in the study of the wider environmental effects of post-harvest burning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4382-4386
Number of pages5
JournalVision Research
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - dec. 1 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems

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